5th Singapore Short Cuts - Embryo by Loo Zihan


The gentle balmy pulsations of the water leads us into a mysterious world, seemingly forbidden. A young girl in a school pinafore finds herself in the dimly-lit confines of an old school. All around her is just bare walls that seem dank and mouldy under the superimposition of the sound of pulsating water. Somewhere down that echo-ey corridor is a room where the first sign of life has permeated through a small opening. A turgid, broad-leaved, crawling plant arches itself into a slide that barely kisses the concrete in the room. Fresh, juicy and virile, it hangs there, waiting for attention. And this is where a journey begins.

Embryo is symbolic visualisation of a process of discovery. Sexual innuendos aside, I believe the director left it ambiguous to retain a space for more personal interpretation. Like a pandora's box kind of fable, she discovers, she touches, she gets her hands wet, she experiments and soon find herself in more surprises than she can handle.
From the confines of the room, she find herself out in the open next. Making a titular reference, the girl discovers a grass-lined courtyard dotted with eggs. Her natural instincts compel her to collect them like they were her babies and in a rather maternal gesture, she uses the skirt of her pinafore as a basket to contain the eggs, visually undermining the modesty of her uniform. Then comes what I thought was the most brilliant and image of the film (possibly the one I would remember it for). Still cupping the eggs with her skirt, she briskly treads through the a door with a series of shut classroom doors. But one by one, water gushes out through the slit at the bottom, like a malevolent tide that is about to engulf her. And there was a clever shot at the end when the camera shot the water at ground level, accentuating the tide.

I had a question towards the end though. The girl finds an old-fashioned basin of water in another room and she starts soaking the eggs in it. Shortly after, she colours the water with drops of red paint, making the eggs look like they are soaking in blood. Did it symbolise an attempt to nurture or to destroy? I thought it could work both ways because the different ways you could manipulate the imagery of blood.
Interestingly, Embryo is a piece of contradictions. It is visually bland but suprises with the occasional burst of colour. It walks the thin line between innocence and taintedness. And finally, it is thematically ambiguous though if you analyse, narratively very straight-forward.re

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