A Way Out in Internal Affairs III

Lau Kin-ming, Chan Wing-yan, Yeung Kam-wing: three Hong-Kongers. In Infernal Affairs, the death of Chan Wing-yan, an undercover (conflicting loyalties) commonly found in local cinema of the 80s and 90s, gives an option of making a way out to Lau Kin-ming, the new type of undercovers (triad mole in the police) of the new millennium. But in the end, in Infernal Affairs III, he fails to pass the hurdle in the form of Yeung Kam-wing, who doesn't have to be an undercover. He fails to find his way out and is trapped in the lawn outside the hospital.

Does Lau Kin-ming have a way out? Yes, there are two possibilities.

The first one is offered by Chan Wing-yan's parallel narration in Infernal Affairs III.

The opening and ending of Infernal Affairs III are made up of narrations from Chan Wing-yan's point of view, which ascertain that Chan Wing-yan's narration exists independently, and not created from Lau Kin-ming's point of view. By paralleling Chan's narration with Lau's, the progress from Infernal Affairs to Infernal Affairs III and then back to Infernal Affairs is made a full circle.

In Infernal Affairs, Chan ends up on the lawn in Gallant Garden. He cannot continue with his narration. But Lau can. Through Lau, Chan's narration in Infernal Affairs III is rewound a year back(the Gallant Garden scene takes place 6 months after Chan's death, the opening scene in Infernal Affairs III takes place 6 months before Chan's death, it adds up to a year). In the closing scene of Infernal Affairs III, Lau ends up on the lawn of the hospital (Lau and Chan both end on the lawn, the difference between them, though, is heaven and hell, "glory" under the flagstaffs and the "nightmare" of two women). Lau has no way out, but Chan's narration is not over yet. It continues with Chan going to the Hi-Fi shop, and by so doing, Chan can bring Lau back to the narration of Internal Affairs. This time, it is the rewinding of Lau back to two years ago.

The parallel narrations of Lau and Chan from I→III→I→III can thus go on forever, with no way out. But if you believe in the theme of Groundhog Day, then the way out will appear on day. Because there is some slight variation in each repetition, and the variations will add up to a total break. When there is repetition, there is hope.
The second possibility is much more direct, the hope is in the next generation. Of the eight protagonists, six are dead, one is left trapped and the remaining a "shadow". Then there are the three wives, a lover, two daughters and a baby. The daughter of Ngai Wing-hau died with the Ngai family. May is married with a daughter not surnamed Ngai or Chan. Together with Mrs Wong and her daughter with a surname Wong, and Mary and Li Sum-yee, they make up the female ensemble under the "shadow". The redevelopment of the male line hinges on the baby whose sex is not identified ("everything can be divided but not the baby", "the baby can say Papa now").

The unidentified sex of the baby precisely means it may, or may not be, the way out. If the baby is a girl, then it is a dead end for the all female ensemble. If it is a boy, then he can relive it for Lau Kin-ming, and make a choice for him. The possibility is there, though not definite. Moreover, we do not know Mary is a single mother or has remarried. The baby’s surname may not even be Lau. The self-assertion and identity confirmation symbolized by the redevelopment of the male line is hinged on this shaky hope.

A Groundhog Day style of hope, and the sex and surname of a baby offers a possibility to Lau Kin-ming lying on the hospital's lawn. Whether the failure of Lau to get pass the hurdle of Yeung Kam-wing and thus caught in the trap of his own making represents the dead end of the Hong Kong in 2003 or the future of local cinema, Infernal Affairs III still believes there is a way out for Hong Kong/local cinema, despite its admission of futility, that we ain't out if it yet."

By Athena Tsui

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