SIFF Review: Haze by Anthony Chen
Having bagged a special mention at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Anthony Chen returns this year with his third short. Haze premiered locally at the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) this year as a precursor to feature Veil of Dreams.
The boy wonder of Singapore cinema takes us through a day in the living room of two Singaporean teenagers. Sick of school, they decide to indulge in a bout of truancy, however the ever familiar Indonesian haze forces the two to stay indoors. With nothing but snacks and the surging humidity, the male half of the couple resorts to a tub of ice cream to tease his bored other-half. What starts out as a cheeky game of tag in the living room with chocolate ice cream eventually culminates in the couple’s first time.
When they are done however, they go up to the roof to “watch the haze”. It is here that the girl throws her boyfriend the question if he will love her for eternity. And in true ‘ah beng’ fashion, he retorts that such questions are annoyingly cliched before leaving her for the neighbourhood cyber cafe.
One might notice a lack of plot in this film. It is definitely not your commercial popcorn fare that’ll get you hooked from the get go. But as pointed out by Chen’s dean from the National Film and Television Institute in UK who graced the film’s screening at this year’s SIFF and introduced the film on Chen’s behalf – do not judge the characters or the plot as they are. Instead, treat the film as a study of a stage in life everyone goes through.
Now, while the plot leaves much to be desired, the performances by the actors more than made up for it. Virtual unknowns Quek Er Seng and Tan Mei Jun star as the bored, truant-playing couple. Daring roles, no doubt, but to pull it off as realistically and unabashed as the two did – hats off to them. Virtual unknowns Quek Er Seng and Tan Mei Jun star as the bored, truant-playing couple. Nothing in their delivery felt forced. Its precisely this believability in the characters they created for the audience that absorbs one into the film that has little of a plot.
Overall a beautifully photographed film on 16 mm with believable characters and laudable acting. However the plot was bland, but then again, that was not the point of the film.