Monday, October 30, 2006

BE WITH ME will appeal to more than the usual art-house crowd

To begin with, BE WITH ME – the new film from Singaporean director Eric Khoo - is a serious test of patience. It has precious little dialogue and the visual style is deliberately simplistic and functional – using DV and minimal lighting. The content of the film could be a series of statements: old man buys food; old man puts food in compartment of motorcycle; old man cooks food; old man puts food in tiffin; old man goes to hospital; old man walks along corridor; old man feeds wife; old man sits with wife; old man goes to store; old man serves customer….This is not all, though! For there is an inter-weaving plot - again with no dialogue. Fat man goes to diner; fat man eats noodles; fat man eats oyster omelette; fat man drinks tiger beer (maybe this is why he has a pot belly, thinks Bina007); fat man goes home; fat man eats braised pork; fat man works at surveillance officer; fat man ogles beautiful executive; fat man buys nice writing paper; fat man struggles to tell girl he loves her; fat man stalks girl in shopping mall. And yet, there is more! There is another plot strand. Again, no dialogue but a series of close-ups on instant messenger screens, text messages and caller IDs. Two teenage girls have a fling, to the sound of corny day-time TV music, but one deserts the other for a boyfriend. The jilted girl is so crushed she attempts suicide.

What binds all these stories together and lifts them above the painfully artistic is the narration of a deaf and blind woman. I say narration but actually her story is related through close up’s of what she types, very occasionally through what she says, but mostly by observing her day-to-day routine while subtitle run at the bottom of the screen. This seem fitting to her condition. It is a remarkable and true story about a young girl whose parents hardly care when she looses her senses and who loses all hope of ever going to school. But a series of kind people rescue her and she ends up on a scholarship to a prestigious American school for the disabled. Now in old age, she teaches at a school for the disabled back in Singapore and her autobiography affects each of the main characters in the other plot strands.

This is not an easy film to approach and at first can seem willfully obscure. But as you settle into the rhythm of the movie it becomes captivating. The central story of this remarkable woman definitely lifts the film out of the “one for the art-house crowd” category.

BE WITH ME is on limited release in Singapore, France and the UK.

No comments:

Post a Comment