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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

This is a beautiful motion picture about Chinese women from director Wayne Wang who also brought us “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.  Whereas “The Joy Luck Club” was based on the best-selling novel by Amy Tan about mother-daughter relationships and the tensions between Chinese and American culture, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”, also based on a best-selling novel by Lisa See, is about life-long friendship between women contrasted with early 19th century Chinese culture and contemporary Chinese culture in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Students of culture know that it is created by the bonds of communication and sustained by the values emphasized in that communication. While being female in China is still not valued as are males, even under a Communist government that preaches equality, two hundred years ago, women could have the final word if they had a girl friend, a soul mate. This tradition is called “laotung” and often girl friends were brought together by a kind of matchmaker, transcending even social class, in a commitment that was seldom broken.

This friendship was nourished by communication via a secret language, Nüshu, written on fans.  According to anthropologists, this is the only language in the history of the world to be developed by and for women.

Snow Flower and Lily’s friendship survived war, misunderstanding, and an unhappy, isolated marriage for one, and a poor, rough, though loving marriage by the other. It was broken once, but in death, healed and made beautiful again.
 
Nina and Sophia are also friends from childhood, where Nina teaches Sophia, who is from Korea, how to speak Mandarin.  They remain close even through the challenges best them from differences in social class, family, and education.
 
This is a film about tradition, the emotional connections created through life-long friendships, loyalty, sacrifices, and sisterly love. I think the theme of language and communication frames the story and creates layers of meaning that cinephiles will enjoy discussing.

Nina /Lily are played by Bingbing Li and  Snow Flower/Sophia are played by Gianna Jun.


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