[DN1015] Lego Ego

Dispirited by the circumstances at hand and how everyone was being made to compromise on their productions, I too have mixed feelings about how Lego Ego turned out. With how rushed everything was, my submitted short wasn’t able to generate the level of emotional response I was hoping to achieve in terms of the mood and atmosphere created.

Being very hesitant in the execution of this piece, the preliminary stages of planning got me asking myself, people around me and Yue Han over and over again if using found footage as visual language was okay. This was before the COVID-19 situation really blew up and was when I hit rock bottom confidence in this work of mine after a friend told me that I seemed lazy for repurposing footage that was already taken. However, with time constraints and trouble finding actors for my piece, I decided to go on ahead with my original plan and make an epistolary essay film which explored emotional masculinity and vulnerability.

Concerned that my mode of storytelling might come off as static and boring piece, I decided to put the main frame of emphasis onto the characterisation off-screen Wong Nam through voice-overs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get an actor of suitable character and age in time to voice Wong Nam’s lines due to the pandemic, so I had a friend do a stand-in voiceover for this short. I hope I’ll properly get the chance to finish this short in my intended mood and atmosphere because this topic means a lot to me.

I gave guidelines for my friend to use more of his chest voice and bring out the breathy texture in his voice for Wong Nam.

Guide:「”The intended atmosphere of my piece is one of melancholic rustiness and being the centrepiece of my whole work, the voice over is more than crucial. You are free to interpret how an old man who once suffered a heart attack would sound like but it should flow along the premises of a slow and laboured reading.”」

More information on the preliminary process, back story & intended treatment can be found on DN1015’s G2 Google Drive Folder 🙂


symbolic metaphors used [trains]

As I was reviewing the VHS footages, I realised that most memories captured were of us travelling, whether in a car, on a boat or on trains which actually made up most of our captured mode of travel. So I decided to explore the symbolism of trains in Lego Ego where they primarily symbolise the journey that our unvoiced character, Yuk Ping goes through. The low rumbling of the train on the train tracks as well as the even pace at which the vehicle goes also provides a meditative calming atmosphere in that I had wanted to evoke.

Trains here are also a fatalistic symbol because as we all know, there is only one path a train goes on and it isn’t by choice, its on pre-laid tracks. (A fatalistic view of the world means you’re all about destiny, and subscription to the idea that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.)

passing time. lego train in lego land. the miniature.
// (signifying Yuk-ping’s land of origin) //
  • occurring at initiatory or climatic moments of classic children literature with utopian fantasies, the railway functions as a protean, paradoxical space, not merely instrumental but instead active
  • Taking references from the Robert Zemeckis’ film, The Polar Express (2004), I wanted to use this high and relatively wide angle shot of the lego train’s movements to signify the sort of unyielding surveillance Wong Nam had on Yuk-Ping while she was growing up. Even though it was an unintended outcome of Wong Nam’s patriarchal control, such an upbringing shaped how Yuk-Ping saw the world, that a woman’s worth was only justified by a man’s existence.

Train journeys occur at initiatory or climactic moments of large numbers of classic children’s utopian fantasies; in these journeys, the railway functions as a protean, paradoxical space, not merely instrumental but instead active. Railway journeys serve an important role within the metaphorical as well as the narrative economy of utopian texts; this role is sometimes a subversive one, and ultimately calls into question the relationship of reader to text.

Railway trains in utopian fantasy literature operate like alternative worlds, allowing space and time within the narrative for establishment, subversion, and clashing of the logics and values of the other realms of the text. In this way they can be described in terms of Foucault’s well-known formulation of “heterotopia”.

Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults, edited by Carrie Hintz, Elaine Ostry.

passing time (aboard a cave train in the tunnel)
// (signifying Yuk-ping’s blindness to truth) //
  • Along with the already present glitches and blackouts at certain portions of the clips, tunnels and especially cave tunnels that trains go through are often pitch black. In such circumstances, nothing can be seen and often used to foreshadow emotional darkness to come.
  • Tying in with the visuals of what Wong Nam recalled from memory as he is writing to her, we see gaps in between
masculine-coded space (sitting on a woodcraft train)
    • Fun or Not-So-Fun Fact: Trains initially excluded women because some “experts” believed that women’s bodies weren’t fit to travel on steam engines that ran at 50 mph. “They thought that our uteruses would fly out of our bodies as the train accelerated to that speed,” says Genevieve Bell, the anthropologist and director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research
    • Growing up in an extremely patriarchal Chinese household like Yuk-Ping’s, shaped how she viewed the world, for women to play the subservient role in a masculine space. That was something that she had to accept even after learning that the world was bigger than she thought it was. That whatever she had grown up with wasn’t representative of society as a whole.
moving on: an emotional journey (on the steam train)
  • Here we see nothing other than the out-the-window view of a passing steam train going in the opposite direction. Viewers are viewing the scenery out the window like what Yuk-Ping sees on the steam train she is on.
  • Notice how this is an elaboration and real-life adaptation of the scenario in Lego Land, that Yuk-Ping is now aboard the train that went past the one docked at the station, the one we were focused on initially.
  • With a relatively straight path of travel, we once again go back to how the tracks act as a symbol of fate.



Hope I’ll be able to properly complete this piece of work or maybe push my exploration of vulnerability and emotional masculinity even further with future projects. Thank you G2 for being such amazing classmates this semester, see you guys around!

The video will be up on my YouTube channel @vanzchiu on the 6th of May (Wednesday) if you guys would like to watch it again! Thank you all for the support, it really means the world to me.

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Vanessa Chiu

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