Sunday, June 05, 2011

[ScreenSingapore Red Carpet Gala Premiere] The Devil Inside Me (夺命心跳 / Duo Ming Xin Tiao) (Opening Film)

Your Heart Now Comes With GPS!

It's incredibly frustrating when you finally get an inkling of how the filmmakers wanted the story to go and what they had wanted to achieve, but have to suffer through disparate scene after disparate scene trying too hard to force square pegs into round holes, and its indecision whether to aspire to be a psychological thriller, an all out horror film or the unintentional comedy, made the opening film of Screen Singapore quite the letdown, with polite chuckles ringing out every now and then, that I feel for the director Zhangi Qi and actress An Ya who were here to grace the event.

(Center) Director Zhang Qi and Actress An Ya

Kelly Lin stars as a woman who had undergone a heart transplant, but like The Eye, whatever organ that gets introduced into one's own body comes with the requisite trailing, haunting elements such as some bearings of the spirit of the donor, willing or otherwise. She soon finds herself going a little bit insane because of plaguing nightmares, inexplicable sleepwalking (by the kilometres, mind you), and of course, finding her face belonging to her piano teacher donor, a certain Ms Jiang Beiyan (Anya), whom she will find out has issues with a possessive boyfriend (Victor Huang) who is adamant that she's having an affair with a Mr X, and is enlisting help to try and track this person down.

That's because if you buy into the hokey premise that there's some unorthodox process of having someone's blood first transfused in some way to a certain degree prior to any organ transplant operation, a little bit of that person's soul gets transferred as well, and when the organ comes in, there will be this colossal tussle between the old you, and the new one, and the outcome determined by which side will become more dominant, given external influences from anyone who knows to exploit this condition. Yes it involves Tony Leung as a doctor suffering from brain tumour no less, and being responsible for the heart transplant in question, but Tony Leung Ka Fai has always been known to play his fair share of shady characters, so this outing is no different too.

The first few minutes are quite disorientating, with the actress Kelly Lin put through a series of explicable drowning attempts, only for the narrative to make sense a little while later, provided that you've not lost interest, nor find scenes becoming a little absurd as the story wore on. For that I would blame the editor for not carefully editing this film, preferring to jar the viewer with disjointed scenes which don't flow logically, and falling frequently into the temptation of "jump-starting" or brushing past any scene with a wake up call for the character. I know Inception had made dream sequences a hit, but to do so frivolously, just reeks of laziness in crafting a proper narrative tale.

And basic research is of paramount importance if one were to dwell into the medical realm. While I understand dramatic license is required to spice up the plot, having basic medical protocols breached - for instance, a character walking into an operating theatre just prior to an operation without being scrubbed nor authorized, can't just happen, and I shudder to think if it's reflective of the state of medical services in China, which included having a doctor dabble in his own illegal research at his residential basement. Patient confidentiality also gets breached, but that's only because it's somewhat of a necessity to move the story forward. Then there's something about being able to track a surgeon down in an operating theatre, right down to the right ward too, and knowing just when he's about to emerge from an operation. I've been to my fair share of hospitals, and this does not happen.

The one which drew the most laughs, will be how characters walk around with a GPS inside them, such as the protagonist having just about anyone, from hero to villain, to loads of policemen being able to track her down just about anywhere she goes, be it sidewalks or abandoned worksites, dark corridors or the open sea. I know everyone walks around with a cellphone that technologically puts one in a position of being traced, but the film's presentation made it really look like human beings have evolved with sensors and trackers. Too many coincidences happening in the narrative that made striking lottery a weekend affair too.

The Devil Inside Me could have gone with a more polished script that could have kept things simpler and tighter, rather than having to extend the ending by a few minutes to have to explain everything in verbose. Film relies on the visual medium to tell a story, and when you have too much talk from characters explaining just what had transpired in its constant flip flopping of dream and reality, then you know you're in for troubled waters since the real devil is in the details. Nicely cut trailer, but the end product is anything but.

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