love language


An aspect of 2046 that’s always confounded and fascinated me is how Tony Leung spoke Cantonese while Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi spoke Mandarin. Or really just scenes where two parties in a conversation are speaking to each other in essentially different languages. I have always always wondered why or what the point of it is, because I’m sure it’s not just that that’s what the actors’ native dialects are (I am almost certain Tony Leung can manage the few lines of Mandarin his role would’ve required, however feeble the attempt might have been).

I never looked this up, of course, because, actually it never occurred to me that I could do that until just now when I thought about writing this post.

So, but, anyway, yesterday was a friend’s birthday and a guy from our section posted on her wall in Hebrew (birthday girl is Chinese, I assume he said something like happy birthday), and she replied thank you in Chinese. This made me think of this schema of communication which sounds so disjointed. Then it occurs to me that this may not even come up for a non-Chinese speaker, though, the dialects truly are so distinct that I think it should be fairly apparent to anyone watching Wong Kar Wai (assuming you’re not just a fetishist).

But so what if it’s not an issue for anyone else? What if people could really communicate like that? There is no language barriers, everyone just understands every nuance of every other language.

Although, the neutralizing effect of removing language barriers would probably also just remove these nuances. There would also be no native language, which I can’t even imagine. Man, is that how monolingual Americans feel? Native language and only language; ride or die.

So then, why 2046?

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