Island Etude (練習曲) is a new Taiwanese film directed by En Chen (陳懷恩). It follows the travels of a young man Ming-hsiang, as he travels around Taiwan on his bike.
The story starts out with Ming-hsiang travelling along the east coast which was also the backdrop for The Road in the Air (單車上路), another movie about cycling released last year which I reviewed here.
It is here that the scene and the pattern for the film are set. Ming-hsiang is a determined person and he also has a hearing problem. At times he is withdrawn from the activity around him and in his own space. However, he is frequently drawn into interactions with various people along the way. Ming-hsiang's sensitivity to the people he meets and the sometimes overwhelming friendliness shown toward him by others make the film very moving.
The style of the film blurs the line with documentary. Whatever flaws there may be in the production, they are made up for by the wonderful way the island of Formosa and its people are shown. Although there are scenes that take in some spectacular scenery, these do not overwhelm the characters in the film.
I thought this movie was very special for the exuberant way it captured the spirit of Taiwan. Highly recommended.
Please note: The version I saw had no English subtitles.