Becoming-Cockroach in the End Times Alienation and Involution in the Films of Tsai Ming-liang

Xi Li

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract


Films that envision the state of human civilizations under a hypothetical doomsday always make a comeback in popularity from time to time, in particular, during the current pandemic times or similar moments when human civilizations are faced with critical threats. Nevertheless, unlike those conventional highly realistic films, Tsai Ming-liang’s The Hole (1998) seems to have given its prediction of today by reviving a non-resembling and non-representing aspect of cinema.

This paper explores how moving images provide a de-peopled and de-centralized perspective of the camera-eye to imagine the state of human life from a hypothetical apocalyptic syndrome in the films of Tsai Ming-liang. In particular, this paper explores how Tsai’s films derive advantage of the non-representing side of the moving images, by using cinematic devices such as non-diegetic song-and-dance scenes, mise-en-scène, depth of focus, and frame-within-the-frame as well as imageries such as insects, stray animals, diseased and grotesque bodies, and porous apartments, to illustrate the alienation and isolation of urban individuals while at the same time reciprocally establishing a spectral connection between them by creating a liminal space-time in a cinematic “reality”

By employing a delicate close reading of moving images, in the light of Deleuzian becoming-animal and out-of-field, this paper, which mainly takes The Hole (1998), The Wayward Cloud (2005), I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006) and Stray Dogs (2013) as examples, will further explore how the moving images present the dehumanization of characters in a creative form of becoming-cockroach, becoming-stray dog…etc. through creating an uncanny symbiosis between characters and non-human beings; and how the moving images create radical Elsewheres or nowheres which demonstrate a transnationality and universality in place of regionality and locality.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2022
EventJourneys Across Media 2022: Narratives in the Global-local - University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Apr 2022 → …


ConferenceJourneys Across Media 2022: Narratives in the Global-local
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period28/04/22 → …
Internet address


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