Watching Foreign Films on Planes

On a long-haul flight this summer I sat next to a kindly little old lady from a foreign-to-me culture who watched movies with subtitles. Always on the look-out for new ways to see the world, I watched her choices. Such fun to see movies in which it’s impossible to figure out what will happen next.

The first film was about a woman who is involved with two men; she has rough sex with one and a romantic, but platonic, relationship with the other. She has had many past lovers, including women, and publishes her erotic adventures in books under a pseudonym. Her interest in sex is explained by the fact that she was raised in an orphanage and lacked the stabilizing benefit of parents.

Her double life is discovered after she is killed. As the detective investigates her last days, he realizes that both the men she was seeing had opportunity and motive. Further work uncovers that she was killed by a hit man and that a female junior detective also has a possible motive to kill the woman.

The abusive lover is arrested and the platonic lover tries to commit suicide as he blames himself for her death. As the detective continues to piece together what happened he realizes the woman sent him a copy of one of her books, with the last page ripped out. He then remembers that he knew her when she was a child.

The final part of the movie puts all the pieces together – she had decided that she could not continue her double life and hired the hitman to kill her, but left evidence which would implicate her abusive lover.

The next movie was even more interesting. It starts with a man with a knife entering a house. Then there is a cut to a female detective having to sit next to a man on a long bus trip. They eventually start to talk and develop a friendship.

But when the woman goes to work, it turns out that the house which the man with the knife entered belongs to a female friend of the detective. And that friend is now missing. The detective looks in vain for her friend but there is no trace of her. The detective suspects the husband (who is seen having secret conversations on a hidden phone) but there is no proof.

After days of work, the detective figures out who the man with the knife is, but he swears he did not kill her. He had gone to house to hurt the friend, but she was in the house with her boyfriend so the man with the knife left. The detective searches but can’t find any trace of her friend’s lover.

Then the friend’s body is discovered in a burnt-out car. The detective continues to investigate, at the same time as her friendship with the man on the bus deepens and she discusses aspects of the case with him.

The clues keep coming but nothing makes sense – the friend was estranged from her very conservative parents because she wanted to become a model, a job she had never been interested in. The detective eventually figures out that the burned body of the woman in the car is not her friend; the coroner misidentified the corpse.

Finally, the detective starts to wonder if the husband and coroner are working together. Evidence suggests that another person from the police station and the husband’s former girlfriend might also be involved. A romantic dinner with the man she met on the bus is ruined when the detective starts to again talk about the case, dwelling on how much she misses her friend and how she needs to solve this case.

Finally the husband confesses to the detective that her friend is alive. She fell in love with another man before her arranged marriage and when she tried to tell her parents that she didn’t want to get married, her mother doused herself with gasoline and threatened to kill herself. So the friend went through with the marriage but was so miserable, she also tried to commit suicide. Her husband, a doctor, forced her to confess what was going on, then agreed to help her concoct this elaborate plan in which she would pretend to die so that she could marry the man she loved.

The detective is initially relieved to know her friend is alive and to see a short video she made with her new husband, but as days turn to weeks, gets increasingly suspicious that her friend won’t speak to her on the phone. She also becomes a little suspicious of the man she met on the bus, so she orders someone to look into his background.

At last, the friend sends a message for the detective to meet her at a certain house at a certain time. Her male friend she met on the bus insists on going along. Of course there is bad cell phone reception and the scary music starts when you see the husband, the husband’s ex girlfriend, the coroner and the suspicious police office also enter the building. And the male friend is holding a gun.

As the detective sees the group of people, she gets a phone message saying that the man from the bus’s identity is suspect and it’s a grand moment of suspense. Then the man from the bus reveals that HE is her friend. That she (now he) had fallen in love with the detective years ago and known that she wanted to be a man. Her plans to stop her arranged marriage failed and when she tried to commit suicide her husband forced her to tell him the truth.

The husband then helped her do a gender change. (It wasn’t a boyfriend that the man with the knife saw, but her having changed into a man.) The next step was to arrange to meet the detective as a man and see if there was a chance for a relationship.

But as the detective kept pushing the investigation, the husband had to keep changing his story and the evidence.

The detective is stunned and runs away. A few days later they meet and the man tells the detective that he knows it is a lot to process, so he will give her a year to think. They agree to meet after a year.

You then see the two of them walking towards each other in a park – just as they are about to speak, the screen goes blank. Scrolling words appear, explaining to the audience that this is their story and they should end it as they like without anyone else’s interference – and wouldn’t it be great if all people could live their lives without inference.

With the end credits are pairs of photos of women before and after they transitioned to being men.