Yeo Siew Hua’s The Land Imagined, winner of the Golden Leopard at this year’s festival in Locarno is a film that combines a well thought-out, beautiful form with an intriguing history and a socio-political background. The Singapore artist can be compared with representatives of the far-eastern neomodernism and by his creative approach to the genre (neo-noire), oneiric aesthetics and a neon portrait of the industrial coast of Singapore, an artificially expanding metropolis state, he could proudly show himself in company of distinguished figures of the movement.
Following the path of his colleagues, Yeo Siew Hua will take up the subject of loneliness, social alienation, impossibility of communication (which, for example, we know perfectly well from Tsai Ming-liang’s cinema), as well as the effects of expansion – in this case also territorial – of wild capitalism (Zhangke Jia could smile). Instead of stopping at the image of loneliness, the Singaporean director shifts the center of gravity to the social background. While the collapse of the world is the second plan for other neomodernistic creators, regarding the internal crisis and the degradation of the characters, in The Land Imagined it is like a center of nightmare, a space that will constantly reoccur in the film.
The widening of the land – huge heaps of sand and massive industrial installations, beaches consisting of sand brought from neighboring, poorer countries – is becoming an oppressive machine of labor exploitation, cheap labor coming from the borders of a dynamically developing country.
The perspectives of two main characters – the Chinese worker, Wang and detective Lok – will intertwine. They are both investigating. The first is looking for a missing friend, and the latter follows the footsteps of Wang. They both suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep will not only bend and make reality unreal, but will also open the gate through which the previously invisible nightmare of expansion will come at the expense of employees.
Fluidity, soft focus of the world will also be emphasized by means of virtual reality. Communicationaly defective heroes (both taciturn, both are using the language sparingly) will find their contact methods in the imagination (Wang says that “he is normal, sometimes his imagination rages”), dreams (Lok dreams of places he has not yet seen and people who he has not met yet) and a computer game (a games room run by a daydreaming Chinese woman wanting to flee somewhere else). Only with the help of these media they will be able to get more information, move the investigation forward and develop relationships with other people. At the same time, the distance from real life will make them more and more lost between the mountains of crumbling sand.
One can boast The Land Imagined of great camerawork of Hideo Urata and a very good sound quality (cooperation between Damien Guillaume and Gilles Benardeu from France). Image and music will be remembered for a long time and one will want to come back to this movie in the future.