The Tale
By Joe J. Zheng With on February 11, 2018

The Tale is a quite unique film in terms of its autobiographical nature. The director Jennifer Fox literally named her protagonist using her own name, explicitly telling the audience that it is her own story. It is very rare in filmmaking that an auteur would do so because most of them would avoid self reference, and create some distance between themselves and the story. But Jennifer, who is a proactive and internationally acclaimed documentary director, chose to do so in her first fiction film. I was quite astonished at the screening, for the story of the film is really private, dissecting a woman’s past experience of being sexually abused as a 13-year-old by a much older man. The director needs to have a very strong personality and mental resilience to expose her own story on the big screen. I was seriously worried about the director, considering the attention and pressure that she is going to withstand after the public screening of the film, but it seems that she has prepared for all that are coming, and would bravely engage herself in the conversation, despite of her vulnerable position in it. As many critical reviews mentioned after the premiere, this film obviously fits in the context of the #Me Too movement, but I find it is much more than that. First of all, it was developed and started principle photography way before the breakout of the #Me Too movement. Second, as the director said in the Q&A after the screening, what she wants to express through the film is much more than just accusing the villain as a victim of child sexual abuse, but an artistic way of self-studying and a realistic portrait of real characters who participated in this scandal, including herself. I personally found these efforts are very well carried out throughout the film. The director deployed very innovative skills of storytelling, mingling the past and the present together using complicated editing skills, such as cutting the present character with his/her younger version together to create dialogues crossing time and space, or imaginatively interviewing the characters about their convictions and attitudes toward the incident. Some of these skills I have never seen being used before. Overall, I was really impressed by the wonderful artistry, dauntless honesty and the great vulnerability of the story and the auteur. I would rate this film as a must-see of the year without hesitation. The story of this film reminds me of the Hagar story in Genesis 16 and 21. In the beginning of the narrative, Hagar was just a maiden slave of Sarai, young and innocent. But because her mistress’ infertility, she was given to her master as a concubine, no, less than a concubine, more like a tool to bear children. Her master Abraham did not refuse but accept this offer, and went into her. That is a real scandal in the patriarch stories in Genesis. It also has some parallels with the movie The Tale. They are both a scheme by a selfish couple (Miss G and Bill are not a real couple but even worse. They were sex partners) imposed upon an innocent girl, to use her as a tool to fulfill their own agenda. They both show how selfishness and lust rooted in human nature, even in a household that fear God. They reveal to us the darkness in every man/woman, and how the darkness can result in tragic consequences: Hagar was mistreated and abused by her mistress afterwards, and driven out of the household. Jenny was involved in this affair for a short period of time, and thought it was a relationship of love for the rest of her life until the truth reveals itself to her. Hagar did not have a way to write down her story as a witness, but God sent Angel to her and her son, and blessed her, and wrote down her story in the Bible. Jennifer did so in her own film, using film as a witness to tell people the truth. I think this film has a phenomenal job expressing herself, revealing the hard truth and creating conversations among people. It challenges our moral blindness and demands for repentance and alertness. That’s where art can function as a redemptive moral power.

About the Author: Joe J. Zheng

1 Response to "The Tale"

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    by Mike Jason on Apr 21st, 2020 at 3:36 am
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