Tsai Ming-liang’s Days is the type of film the words “deliberately paced” was invented for. This meditative, virtually wordless film relishes in its slowness to the extent it’ll test the patience of many film-goers. Director Tsai Ming-liang allows his shots to linger in a way that’s a contrast to modern cinema. These shots, static and ponderous, linger on day to day activities in a busy city as people go about their lives. Among these people are Kang and Nom, one lives alone in a large house and the other in a small apartment. We follow these two as they go through the day, until they finally meet in a small motel bedroom.
Days is a film about social alienation and loneliness in an urbanised setting. The film follows Kang through the busy city and whilst the film often focuses on the characters entirely alone, it seems that when they're among huge crowds they are at their most loneliest and alienated. it’s interesting to note that throughout his day, Kang hardly shares a word with another person. The same can be said of Non, who also hardly shares a word with another person. It captures the many stories we hear of the most extreme examples of loneliness in our society where one can go an entire day without meaningful human interaction.
The way the film wordlessly follows both central characters as they go about their day, preparing vegetables and walking through the busy streets, allows us to experience the daily lives of these characters. We learn of Kang’s neck issues and his attempts to remedy the aliment. They live lonely lives, with their only interaction being with each other where a massage ends in a happy ending. It’s an erotic scene where the genuine human connection is displayed, and it makes for a powerful scene to see queer cinema shown like that.
The problem really is the film, for me a least, shows what you what loneliness and alienation looks like but never made me feel it. Loneliness can come in many forms, and it’s never simply being alone. It’s more to do with lacking something, like a close friendship or romantic relationship, you desire. It general, it is lacking a personal connection with another. Loneliness is other people; others can make you feel lonely in how they treat or include/exclude you.
Days never captured me on an emotional level, never really made empathise with either Kang or Non. I simply didn’t care. There are many ways to capture loneliness in cinema and alienating certain people by its extreme minimalism filmmaking with an (almost) complete lack of dialog and no translation for the minimal dialogue may not click with certain people (such as myself).
Strangely though, the more I think about the film the more I feel its melancholic loneliness began in have an effect on me as I pondered the effect it truly had. I do wish I had watched this in a cinema, where distractions were at a minimum to truly absorb the film at the time rather than lying awake at night.
There’s a lot of interesting ideas, and good to see a film be so patient and leisurely paced, but it’s done in a way that’s just tests my patience just a little too much.