Does beauty still exist in the world or only in the minds of lonely people? Director Fog Forest wants to know if there is anything pushing back against the forces of indifference in his debut feature, The End of Wind (风的另一面, Fēng de Lìngyī Miàn) which follows the melancholy fates of three individuals each looking for connection in an increasingly apathetic society. A salaryman with an existential crisis, a man wrongly imprisoned for a violent crime, and a young woman whose escape from North Korea led her straight into the hands of human traffickers, ponder if life is still worth living when the bonds between people have become so weak and distorted.
Wang Ran, a frustrated company man and all round snappy dresser, has long been in a depressive slump. Lamenting the attitudes of those all around him, he resents their all encompassing greed and self-interest. He can’t understand why they are so keen to destroy the “beautiful things” of the world in order to continue their quests towards materialist success. Then again, Wang is no longer sure that the “beautiful things” really exist outside of his own mind and if they do he has no idea how to find them. Meanwhile, Yang Botao has just been released from a ten year prison sentence for a crime he did not commit only to find that his mother passed away while he was inside and his father has spent all their money trying to get him released. To make matters worse, Yang is also suffering from kidney disease thanks to constant beatings from sadistic prison guards. A series of events brings the two men together when they decide to rescue a young woman, Kim Meishan, who escaped from North Korea but fell into the hands of human traffickers when her father was killed during the journey.
Each of the three protagonists is looking for some kind of connection which will restore their will to continue living even when life is so obviously meaningless and depressing. In order to find his purpose, Wang gives up his job and goes wandering, living in bare apartments and trying to make connections with kind people he finds along the way. Yang too decides to set off on a journey when his attempts to restart his life are frustrated by an inability to find a job in his hometown where the spectre of his “crime” haunts him everywhere. Unlike Wang, Yang decides to try rekindling an old connection in looking for a woman he knew before he went away who has apparently moved on, possibly to the North West. A true journeyman, Yang becomes the conduit which delivers the path to destiny that Wang has been seeking when his delivery job brings him into contact with Meishan who is able to pass him an SOS in the form of a cassette tape. Intended for her long lost mother, the message is in Korean and Wang is therefore unable to understand it save for identifying Meishan’s distress and realising that he has received a literal cry for help.
Though helping Meishan, Wang’s sense of purpose beings to return, warmed by her desire for life as evidenced by her ravenous hunger. In her he perhaps comes to believes that the “beautiful things” he dreamed of really do exist, and can be found by building genuine connections with others even if they are not supported by common language. His final answer is, however, not quite so positive and all three of our protagonists realise different destinations in their mutual quests for fulfilment. Having been abandoned by all each exists separately, unable to reconcile themselves either to the compromises of the consumerist world or discover a new one through forging bonds with other similarly lonely people. Wang’s world is one of imperfect destruction, surrounded by ruins and filled with nihilistic emptiness from which there may be no escape. Or perhaps, the only possibility of escape ends in an “end” which is not an end but a release. Poetic, if at times obtuse, Fog Forest’s debut is a noirish exploration of the sadness of being alive but one which offers no sign of hope for a society in terminal decline.
Original trailer (english subtitles)