Representation of Space/Place in Tsai Ming Liang's The Hole

Ganjavie Amir


Place is a complicated concept in urban design literature that does not lend itself to a definite interpretation (Arefi, 1999). Different meanings and purposes can be transferred to people when they think about place; some emphasize the epistemological role of the place while others concentrate more on its ontological dimension. Discussion about representation of place has been a prominent thread in film studies. This is a traditional and worthwhile agenda, which has been addressed by film scholars since the 1930s. Although most film scholars work within an aesthetic theoretical framework, they rarely engage with urban design literature to address this question and little is known in the film field about urban design theories that can be employed to analyze a movie.
Here, through a case study of The Hole (1997), the most famous movie of Tsai Ming Liang, for whom spatiality is the biggest obsession, I aim to understand how theories of urban design can be used to analyze a movie. This paper argues that for Tsai, place is defined as an event, personal or political, rather than a fixed social or ontological concept and openness, and “change” defined the place instead of boundedness and permanence. Furthermore, this paper argues that Tsai creates a utopian cinema that is based entirely on the characterization of the place and marks the Hole as a cinematography report on space. In this regard, a utopian movie like The Hole can function as an educational tool that acts to spark a debate amongst citizens and essentially cause them to think critically about their relation to the world.
Key words: Space; Place; Tsai Ming Liang; The Hole; Urban studies


Space; Place; Tsai Ming Liang; The Hole; Urban studies



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