154MC: East Winds Festival Film Reviews
The East Winds Film Festival is the only major film festival of East Asian cinema in the Midlands. As an arts and media student, I was invited to go and watch these apparent ‘highly anticipated’ films soon to be released in Asia. From the many films on offer to watch, I chose to go and see ‘The Swimmers’ and ‘The Lust of Angels’. These films appealed to me more than others due to their interesting storylines, I thought I could relate better to these films more than others. This was to be important to me, as I knew they would be difficult to watch in subtitles, which made me apprehensive.
The first film I watched: ‘The Swimmers’ (2014), was an intended psychological, yet strange horror, and also within the teen romance genre, written and directed by Sophon Sakdapisit. Recently, he has made some of Thailand’s best and most profitable films.
The plot, although difficult to understand, was based around a romance triangle: Ice and Tan who are in a relationship, and his failure of a best friend Perth. The couple believe they have a good relationship, until Ice and Perth fall in love, she becomes pregnant the first time she has intimacy. We as the viewer believe she commits suicide off the diving board at the pool where Tan and Perth, two eager swimmers compete in the varsity swimming team. Tan takes it upon himself to find out why Ice felt she had to take her own life and takes revenge.
The film is horrifying at parts, such as the scene when Ice jumps off the diving board, which makes for a good horror. Maybe having some gore and blood at this point could have been more interesting, but I understand they may have been on a low budget. A big part of the film seems to be based upon trust due to the focus on Tan and Ice’s relationship, although in this case I’m not sure where that is- as the relationship escalates into a love triangle. The romance of the storyline is gripping, similar to many other films I’ve seen, but I’m not sure about the ending and the horror genre partake in the film. It’s nothing like I’ve seen before or would want to see again.
This was my first experience of the Asian film industry and I found it difficult to focus on both what was being said in the subtitles whilst watching what was happening on the screen. It wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen, although the ending storyline was so unrealistic and silly that it was amusing. Obviously I know that horror films are going to be unrealistic, but with no disrespect, it was as if a child would have made up the part when Tan’s stomach swelled, suggesting he had a ‘devil child’ inside his stomach (who likes male pregnancy!) The whole storyline was very absurd! Although Sophon did well to keep to the horror genre, keeping the audience constantly off balance and wondering as the plot goes back and forth between the present time and past time- before Ice commit suicide. I could see how this could confuse some people though. There were times more confusing to me, such as when Tan is leaving the house and there’s a corpse hanging in the doorway. It was probably just to add a scare to the audience, but for me it didn’t work, it was just confusing and useless. Who’s corpse even was it? I think that if there hadn’t been as much nonsense in unrealistic situations, it would have been more scary and I would have enjoyed it more.
Well, if I thought that ‘The Swimmers’ was horrifying, ‘The Lust of Angels’ (2013) was even more disturbing. Probably due to the upsetting nature of groping and rape! ‘The Lust of Angels’, written and directed by Isogai Nagisa, is a short (it was around 40 minutes to be precise), thriller film. The film was surprisingly shorter in length than ‘The Swimmers’.
The story follows a newer classmate named Yuriko who we see first when she saves Saori from being groped on ‘the groping line’ as the girls call it, by slashing the man with a razor blade. At this point I knew the film was going to be dodgy. Throughout the film the girls seem to have pretty emotionless faces, surely with the abusing going on throughout, the girls would show signs anger or sadness. This emotion is more portrayed through the use of the repetitive, thrilling sound track.
We were then invited to see the twisted minds of particularly perverted, Japanese older men, yet also the frustrating high school boys who rape the girls to satisfy themselves and to look good in front of their friends. The girls relationships are confusing, in that they seem to be always turning against each other, when really they should be sticking up for one another considering the disturbing acts. The only time they help one another is when they decide to take matters into their own hands and gang up against the gropers. They catch the gropers whilst in ‘the act’ intending to get their revenge, although I’m confused as to why they do this really as if they didn’t want to be groped, surely they wouldn’t want to go back on the Hanagawa train line? These girls’ minds are just bizarre and twisted to me.
I’m aware that this film must’ve been low budget, yet they could have done a better job with special effects and fighting scenes. There were many a ‘time punches were thrown throughout the short film which looked embarrassingly fake; it was all I could focus on after seeing it the first time. The worst moment is when we saw the reasoning for Yuriko hating men- it seemed her stepfather abused her. We watched the film go back in time as she dropped the TV on her stepfather’s head, who died very annoyingly and fake. Plenty of blood was featured, which again didn’t look real.
Again, an indication of a low budget film, there was a lack of sound featured throughout, the only memorable sound I can think of is the suspenseful track which was overplayed to suggest when something bad or thrilling was about to happen. I felt like due to the abnormal fake parts of the film and the disinterest I felt, that what should have been a serious message about rape and young girls, was not so.
East Winds Film Festival (2014) Programmes [online] available from http://www.eastwindsfilmfest.com/#!programme/c1jfx [28th April 2015]