SILENT CODE (BBS乡民的正义) DVD (2012)
SYNOPSIS: Reporter Lan has a special sense of calling for her work - seeking truth and reporting on a fair and accurate account of events and issues. However her boss confines her to researching news from the internet. By accident, Lan stumbles across a popular BBS forum, Dream Board where many rise up to attack the founder of the forum, Xiang. She has originally created the online forum as a space for netizens to share their own dreams and ideas. Xiang has become the subject of a heated debate because of a private video that is leaked to the public to the extent of receiving countless harassing phone calls. In the midst of these attacks, only one person stood up for her, a computer engineer Jun. There are signs that the mastermind behind these attacks is Xiang's ex-boyfriend, King. an infamous hacker. As Lan relentlessly searches for the truth, she discovers things are more complicated than it seems...
Trust Taiwanese filmmaker Hero Lin to make a movie that deserves to be seen by anyone and everyone who has an online presence. The author of a series of Internet cartoons featuring a character known as the Woodman, Hero has since left the National Taiwan University of Arts to deliver an important movie which speaks about online etiquette, a quality which many online citizens either don’t have enough of or don’t use enough of. Yes, we’re talking about them flaming, cyber bullying, trolling, and shaming, these types of behaviour that demonstrate the herd mentality of netizens today.
His cautionary tale is built around Taiwan’s Bulletin Board System, arguably the territory’s most popular Internet forum much like Singapore’s own Hardware Zone. Like any forum, it is organised into communities where people of similar interests hang out to discuss topics like fashion and technology, with each community being managed by anonymous administrators who perform the thankless tasks of removing offensive content. That may sound like censorship to you, but the result of leaving such terrible remarks out there may just be far worse than removing them at the first instance.
Hero’s message is one of responsibility, and so his narrative pushes the envelope to examine the ‘what-if’ scenario should freedom of expression without any sense of responsibility be allowed to prevail. Some may fundamentally disagree with Hero’s perspective on this, but we tend to agree - the consequence is one of anarchy. Indeed, that’s just what happens in the BBS when the ordinary users (termed ‘Villagers’) of one such Board are led to believe that their administrators regard them as ‘idiots’ through a leaked but tampered video.
The unfortunate targets here are two high-school students - Li Cheng Hsiang (Ivy Chen), who has been hospitalised for reasons that will only become clear much later; and Pai Wenhui (Lim Wenyi), a quiet and nondescript girl who hardly likes to socialise in real life. At first, all fingers point to legendary hacker King (Chen Bolin) as the perpetrator for the mayhem, but it soon becomes clear that he is no more than a pawn in a larger chess game played by another hacker known as Mimic (Hsiu Chieh-kai).
Hero, who also wrote the script, doesn’t juggle these story threads as deftly as he should, so the less you start scrutinising the logic about how it all adds up, the better. Most glaringly however, too much focus seems to be on hotshot reporter Blue (Puff Kuo) stumbling into the BBS looking for a story to file, her addition arguably doing little to move the plot along. And following a little too closely to the formula of Taiwan cinema, Hero swops a plainly thrilling finale for a melodramatic one, leading with a predictable outpouring of ‘Villager’ support in what is known as the ‘Purple-Hype’.
Despite these hiccups, credit must go to Hero for breaking new ground by effectively melding a live-action film with an animated one. Telling his story as much offline as online, Hero switches effortlessly between the physical actors in the real world and the 3D animated avatars in the Internet world. The latter in particular represent an intriguingly realised futuristic world, a rich representation of the kinds of interaction that go on within the online space.
It is also precisely Hero’s ability to bring to life the attitudes and behaviour - in both the best and worst sense - that ‘Silent Code’ proves such a prescient and engaging film to watch. We’ve not come across a film that has so successfully conveyed the potential pitfalls of the Internet community space, which therefore also makes this a film that ought to be seen. Some narrative flaws aside, it will at least make you sit up and think hard about what the difference between what you can say online and what you should say. .
Visuals are clear and sharp, while the Dolby 2.0 audio proves an adequately clean soundtrack for the dialogue.
DVD RATING :
Review by Gabriel Chong