In Tianyu Jiang’s short film, Sealed Off, love is like a light switch. It can be turned off as quickly as it was turned on.
Set in 1930s-occupied Shanghai, an accountant seeks shelter on a trolly car during an air-raid lockdown. In order to avoid his nephew just stepping on board, the man sits next to a university student and engages in impromptu romantic chatter until the nephew passes by. Apologizing for the awkward encounter, the accountant confesses the troubles in his life. He plans to divorce his wife and take another while thinking that this young woman would make a great mistress. Surprisingly, the once put-off woman considers the accountant’s proposal seriously, and love blooms in an instant.
“…plans to divorce his wife and take another while thinking that this young woman would make a great mistress.”
First, for a short film, writer/director Jiang masterfully builds a world set in 1930s Shanghai, from the exteriors to the trolly set to its period costuming. We are fully immersed in a world on what was probably a shoestring budget. It all looks gorgeous.
Sealed Off is a slightly odd tale of romance. Taken at face value, the accountant’s proposition seems like a B-plotline from a soap opera. I, for one, was taken aback by the story of reckless love. But the action is set against the daily bombardment of war where civilians attempt to go on with life numb, as if nothing wrong was going on. This melodrama wonders what you would do and what choices you would make if you were just living your life knowing that it could be over tomorrow.
"…wonders what you would do and what choices you would make if you were just living your life knowing that it could be over tomorrow."