Eternal Spring features a soundtrack that draws viewers in, remaining throughout the film as a presence and setting the dark tone throughout the film. The film follows fugitives on the run from the police, one of whom is hiding on a farm 100 miles from Changchun and is found and beaten by the police. The mixed media film intermingles 3D animation and present-day footage to take viewers on a journey recounting a shared memory from twenty years ago when a Chinese state TV signal was hacked by members of Falun Gong, a banned group in China. Jason Loftus follows Daxiong, a comic book artist and film animator, as he interviews those involved with the hack. Daxiong shares his personal story, often with conflicting memories and perspectives, and guides viewers on an emotional journey while the interviewee’s stories take them on a parallel story and separate road.
The film requires utmost attention as these two throngs’ storytelling approaches can lead to confusion. From the audio flow to interviews and animation, viewers may need clarification which, unfortunately, is not provided. It is unclear what story is being told as the two stories, one about a comic book artist and film animator and the other about the group Falun Gong, jump from the memories of a TV raid twenty years ago to Daxiong’s love for art. The animation, at times, feels choppy and unfinished, and the lack of chronological order contributes to narrative confusion as the story jumps from one to the other. The insight into the artist’s mind and his work is fascinating, but it can be distracting from the filmmaker’s narrative and lacks cohesion with the main narration.
Throughout the film, the main characters are assigned avatars, as seen in old video games. As they move along the storyline, the character’s avatar pops up as a guide to help viewers follow along, something that is not commonly seen in previous animations. The film is cinematically captivating and visually stimulating and tells a dark and brutal tale that is hard to piece together. From the beginning of Eternal Spring, it is clear that it is a story that needs to be told. However, based on the shared media footage, it seems to be told from only one point of view, which can make viewers question its message and veracity. The movie mixes comic book style with media footage, with mixed results, as the latter can detach viewers from the tale. As hard as the film is to piece together, the tale pulled from the interviews sensitizes viewers to the plight of the Falun Gong group. It would have been beneficial to interview another angle of those present at the time for a more rounded perspective.
The use of real people to signify an important scene is interesting but can be off-putting. Watching a picture animation and switching to real-life characters is not very pleasing to see. The story is also incredibly slow and lacks direction, which can cause viewers to lose attention and interest halfway through the movie.