Tackling a Distressing Incident, MAGICIAN ON THE ROOF 天台上的魔術師 Shows Two Souls Baring Their Hearts
With nothing to do all day, the idle Lin Fei-Long would often turn to stealing and undercity bargaining. One night out, on a heavy rainy day, when Fei-Long was caught up in an alley, he accidentally witnessed a violent sexual crime. Without any doubt, Fei-Long walked out of the alley and chose to leave the scene of the crime behind. But, as time went on, Fei-Long’s heart grew more and more uneasy until one day he met the foreign domestic worker girl from that fateful night…
Directors: Ma Xiao-Hui
Cast: Cheng Jen-Shuo, Wu Ke-Xi, Kuo Shang-Jie
Runtime: 28 minutes
A man stands with his back against a wall, breathing heavily, as pained screams echo in the alleyway. The screams are abruptly cut off, leaving us to stare emptily into the darkness, deliberating over the man’s decision.
Awarded the Gold Award at the 2018 Youth Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the 2018 New Taipei City Student Film Festival, Magician on the Roof follows a petty thief Fei-Long (Cheng Jen-Shuo) who tries to come to terms with his own guilt. Having chosen to stay away upon witnessing a rape case, he sees a second chance for him when he accidentally chances upon the victim Sung Ying (Wu Ke-Xi) from that night.
Magician on the Roof dwells more on what happens after that fateful encounter as Fei-Long inches his way into Sung Ying’s trust, befriending her and helping her out in menial tasks. The process is paced convincingly, with a few stumbles along the way as Sung Ying remains guarded and hesitant, wary of Fei-Long’s intentions. Though he is somewhat overbearing, Fei-Long eventually gains Sung Ying’s trust and their friendship blossoms through simple everyday activities.
With both characters hiding the same secret from the other, Magician on the Roof has Fei-Long and Sung Ying tip-toeing around the elephant in the room. Also starring in this year’s much hyped Midi Z film Nina Wu, Wu Ke-Xi skillfully takes on the sensitive role of Sung Ying. Through Wu’s careful expressions and cautious postures, we can easily believe and trace how Sung Ying warms up to Fei-Long’s silly jokes.
Cheng Jen-Shuo’s portrayal of a guilt-ridden Fei-Long is balanced precariously with his light-hearted demeanour. Cheng manages to show moments of bare honesty in Fei-Long’s self-tormenting regrets and earnest moves to make amends.
Considering the predictable plot and the straightforward premise, Wu and Cheng shine in their roles together, providing brief happy moments of respite and companionship amidst the heavy undertones that plague their characters.
I remain unsure of what to think about Fei-Long’s approach (such as stubbornly walking with Sung Ying despite her voicing her disapproval) to make up for his decision. Disturbing issues are pushed to the periphery to give way to the budding friendship between Fei-Long and Sung Ying. The short film also seems to heavily depend on employing blackouts to signal the arrival of a new day, which came across as rather haphazard transitions.
Nevertheless, Magician on the Rooftop is an admirable debut attempt to touch on the complicated emotions arising from a sexual assault case, from the perspective of the victim and the bystander. There’s a lot to deal with and the short film decides to focus primarily on the hopeful prospect of facing their demons and moving on from them. Heartwarming and natural, Magician on the Rooftop plays with the loose concept of magic that can happen in hard times.
Catch the trailer here: