Saturday, April 05, 2008

[SIFF08] Dance of a Modern Marriage (Short)

I have to admit I was quite surprised that SFC had a hand in the production of this short, and I suppose it's one step forward in accepting that films with the usual objectionable content might still see the light of day. While there's nothing really quite risque about it, there were enough moments, at least a key one, which raised eyebrows and took a baby step in probably allowing a film like Solos to be screened, some years down the road.

Deborah Teng and Rodney Oliveiro star as Vanessa and Paul respectively, a married couple who certainly have marital issues of their own to address, given their cold attitude towards each other, and the constant bickering through two-thirds of the short. I'm gonna briefly touch on the premise, so the spoiler adverse are advised to stop reading right now.

It's something like a localised, short version of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, though of course, not as explicit. You can see something of a connection with the married couple and their lives here, and with that sexually deviant and unconventional swinger's party where almost half of this movie took place in. It did push some boundaries, but as I said earlier, with SFC having a hand in it, films of similar content might be given the OK, albeit with the R21 rating.

It's quite a stylish production with probably a huge budget to make it, though the crux with the screening, as a member of the audience pointed out similar feelings that I had, was with the pairing of this short with a movie like Road to Mecca. Yes you can say it's not that big of a deal, but I thought one should be conscious of the target audience each movie will attract. It's quite undeniable that those who bought tickets for today, did so because of the feature movie, and not the short (sad but true I guess), and you did have the more sensitive ones really giving audible disapprovals at the direction the short was developing, and some even walked out because the subject matter was a little too much for them to bear.

While there might be good intentions involved in the decision to particularly pair the short and the feature togther, such as opening the eyes and the collective sharing of experiences in having watch an edgy movie, I still think it could do with a little bit more sense and sensibility. In any case, the director himself was thankful that those who found the subject matter in his movie objectionable, for most of them not to have walked out on it.

From Left: Tania Sng (SIFF), Ellery Ngiam, and the filmmakers from Road to Mecca director Harman Hussin and executive producer Isazaly Mohd Isa

The Q&A session after the screening was a combined one, but here are those questions that were relevant to Ellery Ngiam's short. As usual, I have paraphrased (for the better I hope) for clarity and readability. For those who are spoiler wary, please read something else. You have been warned.

Q: What was the inspiration for your film?
A: I haven't done anything as risky / risque (? I'm not sure which, but both applies anyway!) as this before. I wanted to explore marriage in a contemporary context, and wanted to make a love story although it was an unconventional one.

Q: Are you married?
A: No.
Q: That explains!
A: It's completely made up and not based on any life experiences of my own, because I'm not a swinger! I actually spoke to people who are involved in these things, and trust me it's not that hard to look for them really, just hit those chat rooms! I'm keen to explore the difficulties of staying in a relationship at this point in time.

Q: Who was David?
A: In the movie he's the son. It was a subplot developed which came from rehearsals with the actress, where the backstory had her having a past relationship with a man called David, whom of course she never got together with, but named her son after.

Q: I was wondering during the film whether you will decide to cross that invisible line to earn that rating, and finally those two guys kissed.
A: It's a tough film to make because of the strict censorship laws and the Singapore Film Commission funding. I didn't plan to cross any "invisible line" but was conscious not to include any scenes of frontal nudity. I wanted to imply and for it to be sensual instead, and as you can see, everyone's pretty much covered in the movie! As to why the two men kissed, 2 reasons - one, it's the husband's way of getting back at the wife, two, it's connecting the whole scheme of things where it led to a sort of reconciliation.

Q: How has your opinion of swinging change before and after making the film?
A: I'm not a swinger but I learn a lot of the different perspectives of love. I learnt the differing opinions of how people see things in a long term relationship or marriage. I don't regret making this movie, and would do it all over again. It delved into something which I'm not even comfortable to begin with, buit I see it as a challenge to myself to understand my own strengths and weaknesses as a director.

Q: What's your next project?
A: I have spent the last two years writing something to make into a feature film. There's no sex in this one! And currently I have directed a series for television called "En Bloc", so please do check that one out!

The SIFF Singapore Filmmakers Interview Series
Kan Lume, Writer-Director of Dreams From The Third World
HAN Yew Kwang, Writer-Director of 18 Grams of Love
ENG Yee Peng, Director of Diminishing Memories II
Sherman ONG, Screenwriter-Director of Hashi
James LEONG and Lynn LEE, Directors of Homeless FC

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