Thursday, August 5, 2010

the king of masks

A facebook friend, whom I've never met, mentioned to me the 1996 film The King of Masks, and I found it viewable in its entirety at YouTube.

Set in 1930s China, the story follows elderly street performer Wang as he tries to find an heir to whom he can teach the secrets of his art: the quick-change mask art of bian lian.

This is a beautiful, poignant film that will give you so much to think about, so please consider giving it a look.

The story turned my thoughts to the many masks we wear: the mask of our gender, the mask of our profession, the mask of our personal style, and so many other masks.

Have you known someone who had so many elaborately constructed masks, worn so convincingly, that it took years to realize who he or she really was? Masks and personae so seamlessly attached to who we think we are that we believe the masks are real? Masks that are developed to protect ourselves, but end up as a barrier through which people who love us can never enter?

The King of Masks is not overtly about these issues, but it is about the beliefs and opinions we hold that can separate us from our own happiness.

The film made me ask some intriguing questions. What are we so invested in believing that we can't even entertain the possibility of a different solution, explanation, or outcome? What are the painful past experiences that we desperately cling to as part of our identity, thereby ensuring that things will never change, that we'll continue to experience the same disappointments again and again? These were the attitudes that had plagued Wang's life story in the film, and it required a near tragedy and the unwavering love and courage of a little girl to heal him.

What are your masks and who lies beneath them at the very heart of your being? In what small ways might you try to reveal that heart of who you are without becoming too afraid?

When the final mask is removed, look at all the beauty that is there.

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