Story centers on a battle during China's Warring States Period, a series of civil wars, which spanned from the 5th to the 3rd century B.C. Based on a popular Japanese manga, which was in turn based a Japanese novel inspired by Warring States history in China.
This film is about the life of socially deprived people who lives in caged housing in Hong Kong.
Given the very tough topic of social deprivation, extreme poverty and shockingly appalling living conditions, I expected "Cageman" to be very tough to watch. This turns out not to be the case. Instead, "Cageman" is a warm, positive and loving film about friendship. People in the caged housing live as harmonious as possible, supporting each other by their limited means.
Amazingly, there are many really funny scenes too. The tenants manage to humour their living conditions, and live brightly and positively as much as possible. As they have pointed out, they may be homeless but they are not beggars. They never pity themselves for being the bottom most level of the society. This sends out an overwhelming message about how dear they value their lives.
Given the large number of tenants, it is easy for them to be just a face with no depth. However, much time and effort is used to individualise every tenant. Each of them have their own story, their own personality and their own characteristics. This is no easy task.
Apart from their remarkable solidarity, another thing that stands out in the film is the greed and corruption featured. How the tenants stand up against corporate evil is realistically portrayed. It serves as a protest against corruption in the government, laughable bureaucracy, and the greed of people who always want more. When even the societal outcast is cheated of their belongings and dignity, you can only imagine how corrupted the mortal souls are.
The ending is the most powerful I have seen in a while. The tenants happily celebrate the mid autumn festival, singing and dancing. They appear so happy even with no materialistic pleasure. It seems to be making a statement that materialistic wealth does not necessarily translate to being spiritually fulfilled. The stark contrast between the festival celebration and the heartbreaking ending is the most memorable. The dead silence in the caged housing, followed by piercing screams and desperate sirens for help is simply heartbreaking. This scene pierces through me, leaving an almost unbearable wound. No one, even if they are perceived to be the lowliest in the society, deserves to be treated like this.
"Cageman" is a rare example of a fine Hong Kong film. Do watch it if you ever have the chance to.
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