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Diversity and Inclusion

East Asia Program’s “Bringing East Asia to the SU Classroom Series”

December 12, 2023 at 2:00pm3:20pm

Maxwell Hall, 108

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“Brahms in Hong Kong Film: Nostalgia, Politics, and the Post-Colonial Identity in ‘Infernal Affairs II’”

The East Asia Program’s “Bringing East Asia to the SU Classroom Series” featuring Joanna Chang, visiting assistant professor, Department of Music, College of New Jersey.

Following the success of “Infernal Affairs” (2002), directors Alan Mak and Andrew Lau set the narrative of their prequel, “Infernal Affairs II” (2003), in Hong Kong of the 1990s, a decade fraught with apprehension as the island’s fate of 156 years under British colonial rule swept into the hands of Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997. The historical backdrop was a bold and significant addition to the police thriller, as over a third of a million city-dwellers had migrated abroad.

This talk examines the soundtrack of “Infernal Affairs II” with its rare inclusion and interplay of Brahms’s Third Symphony, Chinese Opera and Indian classical instruments. The selection of Western and global musical traditions sensitively reflects and narrates conflicting tensions of identity and loss in pre-1997 Hong Kong.

Filmmakers paired Brahms with protagonists, such that the symphonic scoring suggests nostalgia for a former era of prosperity, security, and stability. Contrastingly, diegetic and nondiegetic strains of Chinese Opera and Indian music coincide with the antagonists, calling forth questions in their audiovisual associations. The unprecedented role Brahms plays at the crossroads of an East-meets-West culture invites reflection of nostalgia in Hong Kong’s postcolonial identity. 

This event was first published on November 15, 2023 and last updated on November 16, 2023.

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