January 18, 2005


Writing about web page http://voicefilms.typepad.com/voicefilms/2004/07/royston_tan_new.html

3 out of 5 stars

93 min
Director: Royston Tan
Produced by: Zhao Wei Films

It's hard to write a start to review the film. As usual, too many points are stuffing in my brian. Such a twisted film. What do I want to talk about? Maybe, simply youth culture…

Why are young people so confused? Those kids presented in the films, they don't wanna go to school. But neither do they have fun outside the school. They tatooed, pierced, meddling with people around them, take drugs, deal drugs, and they commit suicide. They are not bad intentioned. The fact is they don't have any intention except for being loyalty to the brotherhood. Or maybe that was not the case either, I think they are just so confused, why life doesn't seem open for them. They suffer, from lifestyle they choose, the abusive families they were born with, and the low social status they match.

Just before seeing the film, I had read the focus story in Sanlian Life Weekly (issue 49, 2004) about four boys (the eldest aged 17 when arrested) kidnapped another boy about the same age and killed him. The story happened in the outskirt of Beijing. And the protagonists were not scared at all when they were judged a life sentece. Their background, as portrayed in the magazine, were pretty much the same to the Singaporian kids in 15 -- low school attainment, unemployed parents, spoiling grand parents, divorced parents and so on. They killed the other boy as easily as the Singaporean kids killed themselves... as easy as the young massacrers triggered their rifles in the columbine school . But I can't agree with Micheal Moore that to change certain law or certain political leader would calm down the anxiety of the youth. Class might have played a role in building up the confusions, as the fighting between the middle class English speaking kids and the lower class kids who speaks Chinese delineated in Tan's film. Same conclusion did Sanlian Life weekly come up with, adding problematic school education system as another key factor in charge of the juvenile crime. But is it always relative to draw a connection between class and juvenile delinquency/crime? I remember when I was 15, well, maybe I should have said when my secondary school classmates were 15 since I was one year younger than them all, it was even a fashion to form a gang fighting each other and people in the street. There were also girls who lacerate their arm skins to relieve the pain in their minds. My school was a private boarding school, the students who could afford going there were all middle class. Is it because young people are particular sensitive to the world around them? Once the image of the world can't cater their needs, they get anxious? Or are young people particularly vulnerable? Any obstacle would be vital to their willing to live? Whereas there are the majority of the kids survive, the life beyond the youth stories is not necessarily bright. As Kitano ends his 1996 film Kids Return by picturing the pragonists bicycling in circles, we can pretty much predict their lives with Tan's line 'After I graduate, I may join the army, then if lucky get a job, then if lucky meet a girl and marry her… ' Then what? However lucky, the only things they value would disappear in the future, either brotherhood or championship, etc. One of the girl who lacerated her arm skin in my school has now become an illegal passport trader (so far as I heard of). Has life not yet open to her, or does she enjoy cheating people? I don't know to how much an extent I should hold my sympathy to her, or maybe I should keep it for myself.

Have been very familiar with the Japanese films on problematic youth, the Singaporean film is a new experience. Brutal to an extent, it keeps a huge sence of humour. The scenes were not as coherent, but the story is still catchy. It also provided us a sight to look deep into Singaporean Society, the mixed culture, music, class division, city landscape and Chinese influence. Those kids in the film must look very familiar to the Chinese audience as well. While the director Jia Zhangke has kept an insight of provincial urban youth cultures in China, I think 15 is one of the few youth films besides Made in Hongkong and Beijing Bicycle that provides us an image of what the metropolitan Chinese kids could be like in a Chinese breeded culture context.

being 15 is a really weird age
there seems no point to life at that age
school is your life, but you hate school =>therefore you hate life ——— Matthew Felgate :D via MSN

- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Really thought provoking and interesting movie. I think it had many parrels to U.K. schooling, just in a different culture. Perhaps wealth and social inequalities are more profound in Singapore, leaving the poor youth with no hopes and aspirations. Sad, nut englightening.

    22 Jan 2005, 13:48

  2. kenny

    i been searching for this film for a long time. Matthew u happen to have this film somewhere?

    02 Apr 2005, 16:48

  3. Kenny: they will be showing that film in the Arts Centre soon–ish

    03 Apr 2005, 02:13

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