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Hong Kong’s Cinema of Cruelty: Visceral Visuality in Drug War


This paper argues that repulsive images of violated internal bodies can function as powerful political resistance in visual terms. By examining the visceral visuality in Drug War (2013) directed by Johnnie To, this study illustrates how in film, the internal body aesthetically resists, with involuntary bodily responses, both China’s authoritarian judiciary and Hong Kong’s corrupt capitalism under the city’s “One Country, Two Systems” constitutional principle implemented after the 1997 transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). When this forcefully imposed political principle becomes too contradictory for Hong Kong people to accept, common film narrative strategies no longer suffice. In turn, disgust, as characterized by visceral images of vomiting and hyperventilating in Drug War, appears as affective reflections of Hong Kong’s social reality. With reference to the theories by Gilles Deleuze, Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud, Fabio Vighi, George Bataille, and Julie Kristeva, this paper observes that in some cases, visceral visuality could positively recognize the political abject’s personhood and reconfigure the abject’s political identity.

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