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Abraham Overbeeke

PhD student

Email: overbeeke@life.hkbu.edu.hk

I graduated from the Research Master’s in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam in 2016, with a thesis on the mundane and the political in the cinema of Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke, and a BA in Media Studies from the same university with a thesis on Hong Kong crime cinema. My current research as a PhD student at HKBU focuses on non-chronological and otherwise alternative uses of time in contemporary East Asian cinemas.

Nonlinear Asian cinemas as temporal critique

Much film scholarship in recent years has recognized a growing trend of fragmented, nonlinear, temporally and spatially disorienting films, whose formal characteristics seem to mimic the narrative and temporal qualities of contemporary digital storytelling and communication practices (e.g. ‘puzzle films’), as well as the workings of the human brain and its cognitive processes (e.g. the ‘neuro-image’). While mystery or thriller films by directors such as Park Chan-wook and Christopher Nolan have made such restructuring of time most popular in recent years, this research project focuses on a set of contemporary films which use the nonlinear not just as a plot device but instead to critique the temporal configurations of the environments they depict in their storylines. Films such as Good Men, Good Women (1995), Peppermint Candy (1999), Suzhou River (2000), 2046 (2004), and Kaili Blues (2015) present counter-histories and alternative temporalities that challenge dominant (often national) discourses within different Asian contexts. Their strategy to reveal time as duration ventures beyond extending the temporality of experience (the central quality of ‘slow cinema’), to also include its reversal, doubling, and moving in other unknown directions. The films trace and expose the links between different symptoms of deeper problems that underlie the alienation and anxieties experienced by their protagonists, who are often portrayed through interlinked or 'networked' narratives and aesthetics that unveil the interconnectedness of the socio-economic environments these characters inhabit. Such cinematic strategies thereby reflect experiences of rootlessness, marginalization and unstable identity that characterize contemporary life in globalizing environments that seem to become increasingly precarious. These films can be read in a context of inter-Asian referencing which brings together both formal cinematic elements and similar temporal critiques or ‘chronocriticisms’ across national borders. This project aims to reveal how these films rework chronocritical concepts by thinkers such as Bergson and Deleuze, while also re-imagining notions of agency and environment in their specific geopolitical contexts.