Vivian Qu’s Trap Street requires a patient audience, one willing to sit through an hour and a half of obscurity and confusion. If you read the film’s official synopsis, the plot would appear rather straightforward; it’s anything but. Taking place in an unnamed Chinese city, our protagonist is a young digital mapping surveyor for the city, who after meeting a beautiful young woman, becomes involved in a series of indecipherable, government-conspiracy related, events.
A movie that requires multiple viewings, Trap Street demands your attention. If you want answers revealed to you then pay attention. Clues are cleverly spread out throughout the various webs in the film, and not all of them conjoin, but if you’re attentive and diligent, it’s possible to make some sense of movie. I know it sounds like I’m making Trap Street out to be an enigma, but that’s only because an enigma is an accurate assessment.
We see the movie through one perspective: the protagonist’s. Usually, we get varying different points of view amidst a film, sometimes of other protagonists or of antagonists plotting or what have you. Trap Street is somewhat unique in that regard. With only one character lens with which to view the film, we never truly understand anyone else’s motivations or why anything is happening. Our sole understanding of the events that transpire are only slightly better than the protagonist’s, but not by much.
Vivian Qu directed Trap Street with this objective in mind. In hearing the producer speak at the screening I attended the goal was to demonstrate that not everything in life gets explained. The mysteries our hero faces, becoming involved in miasmic government intrigue, are situations that leave themselves open-ended and unsolved. Why? Because sometimes that’s life. We don’t always get happy endings and occasionally things happen and we never learn why or who was responsible. Our only recourse is to carry on and make the best of it, all the while fighting to not let paranoia rules our lives.
In proposing the film to the powers the be over in China, Qu and her producer had to sell their idea as a romantic movie, leaving out the parts about the spy-like occurrences that may or may not directly involve the government, while only including the parts about a young man falling for a beautiful woman. The level of censorship these filmmakers faced is rather astounding, and seeing as their film might not ever touch Mainland China, it’s definitely worth watching, if for nothing else than to see why their movie would otherwise be banned and lend them to a world of trouble.