SIFF Review: Dance of a Modern Marriage by Ellery Ngiam
In Ellery Ngiam’s latest short, Dance of a Modern Marriage, we’re introduced to Paul, a man desperately seeking the passion of a fresh relationship from his jaded, but otherwise grounded wife, Vanessa. He thus decides to take his unbeknownst wife to a swinger’s party in an attempt to re-ignite that spark that is fast fizzling out in their marriage.
One can’t help but notice certain parallels between this film, and the seminal work of Stanley Kubrick that is Eyes Wide Shut.
This is where the film gets interesting as it rolls out its study on the intricacies of the urban matrimony and what makes it tick, and in particular, the romanticism involved in the complex fabric of a marriage. The film, while teasing you with a glimmer of hope by the end, forces you to swallow a bitter pill as you digest and reflect on its contents and revelations.
The orgy scenes and extra marital affairs played out and discussed through the course of the film, culminating in the reconciliation of the couple, forces the question – that perhaps the only way to rekindle fading romanticism is through a third party.
Rodney Olivero and Debra Teng prove to be pleasant surprises as they play the upper class couple with pretty convincing performances in probably one of their most daring projects to date. Joining them in the cast are Sharon Wong, who plays an enigmatic geisha, and Antoni Haberih, playing the said third party at the swinger’s party.
On the technical side of things, the film’s choice of purple hues create a sense of sensual romanticism while at the same time, providing a sense of darkness and mystery. A clever and befitting cinematographic choice, it compliments and accentuates the elaborate art direction that really absorbs you in the mood of the story.
My only gripe with this film is that while it wears the Singaporean label, there is hardly anything about it that is distinctive of the Singaporean culture. This may not be a bad thing as its themes are universal in nature, although watching Chinese Singaporeans engage in dialogue deeply rooted in western culture, while not grating, seems a bit odd. Then again, it’s a personal opinion, but otherwise, the film succeeds on various levels.
To sum it all up, Dance of a Modern Marriage is a technically strong piece of work with a theme and story that revels dark, and somewhat hard to swallow truths, about our relationships. It is a reflection and social commentary to some extent on the modern, urban, marriage.