Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
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
This friendship was nourished by communication via a secret
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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