This ain't no Fairy Tale

22 Apr , 2011,
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V1K1 - Poster Art

I was invited to a screening of Tzang Merwyn Tong’s latest short film, V1K1 (pronounced Vicky) at Sinema Oldschool on Thursday.

As anyone with any inkling about the local film industry would know, Tzang’s something of an underground film maker, whose reputation was made solely on “A Wicked Tale”, a rather twisted re-imagining of the classic Red Riding Hood, so naturally, I was curious about what V1K1 had to offer.

Touted as a techno fairy tale for all the wrong reasons, it very literally discusses the presence of fairies of misfortune, composed of electrical signals, and one scientist’s obsession with them. Naturally, said scientist manages to trap the fairies, and bites off more than he can chew, there’s a lot of hoo-hah and sparkly lights, and a denouement that leaves much to be desired.

It’s apparent from the outset that the film’s a student project. The execution is botched and amateurish, and while it’s nice enough of Tzang to allow his ITE students a hand in making the film, the rawness and clear lack of polish ruins what might have been an otherwise strong concept. The lighting is wacky and inconsistent, the sound recording and engineering weak and irregular at times, and the editing sloppy.

Especially jarring, too, were the camera angles and shot lengths, which turned something sold as techno inspired and experimental, into so much visual garbage. The one saving grace is the music score, and that, at least, fulfills the techno requirement, and decently, I might add.

The script, if it can even be called that, is banal and completely unoriginal. The characters are clearly drawn from Shakespeares’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the fairy obsessed scientist Gabriel is a little too similar to Mr. Crocker from The Fairly Oddparents. Gabriel claims to have a bone to pick with the fairies for ruining his past, but there’s no flashback – no important visual reveal about just how badly the fairies  messed things up. It’s hard to take things at face value, when all you’ve got on screen are a bunch of not so pretty faces going through the motions.

The whole concept of techno fairies, too, isn’t something entirely unknown amongst gothic werepire weeaboo fanboys and New Age  pseudo mystics, and takes everything about Deus Ex Machina a little too literally. The characters, for all their exoticism and mysterious qualities, turned out to be wooden, played by actors  incapable of delivering their lines with any hint of conviction or panache. I’ve seen doorknobs act and pantomime better.

During the Q&A, Tzang evinced that he’d crafted the characters first, before the story. While I don’t decry his approach (and some stories are, in fact, character inspired), it really seems like he’s trying too hard to shoehorn something completely alien into a Singaporean context, and the cognitive dissonance that ensues simply rips the whole movie apart. While the Japanese (an example he’d aired) certainly had Godzilla and Hello Kitty, these were the byproducts of the collective cultural identity and consciousness of the Japanese people – Godzilla as a rebuttal to nuclear fears, and Hello Kitty as an icon of cute consumerism.

Sadly, fairies aren’t exactly commonplace in the local context – there are more tales about pontianak and pelesit and polong than there are about fairies, and what amount of resonance he might have possible expected out of the local audience was all too easily lost.

Simply put, watch only if you’re a supporter of local cinema, and have $4 to throw in the gutter.

If you’re a true, blue sci-fi or fantasy fan who actually knows your fairies, turn away.

You won’t find a happy ending here, I can assure you.