'Sink' by Kirsten Tan - SIFF Shorts Finalists

Very few of the other SIFF venues would have done justice to the film 'Sink', other than the National Museum Gallery Theatre. The unembellished structure of the screening 'stage' makes watching 'Sink' a pure, untainted experience of mesmerising visuals and timeless wisdom. 'Sink' flowed into my consciousness uninterruptedly and drew me into a story that transcends space, culture (though it was shot in Thailand) and time.

Perched on a skinny metal pipe is a box-like sink. Nothing hovers around it except the gently beating sea waves. Imagine the sight of something as domesticated as a kitchen sink transplanted into a unlikely spot like the beach. What's ironical is the fact that the beach is full of water, something that the sink is meant to supply. A dislocated object stands against the sunset, with its base lost in the rising tide - that's the lyrically startling image that I find so difficult to erase from my mind.

The story is linear and simple. A sink stands alone at a beach ready to serve anyone who encounters it. A Siamese boy spots it and develops a fascination with it. Our little boy, virginal, in his interactions with the sink, treats it like a new found friend. He may be a little playful but his antics never overstep the lines of ‘subsistence’ or ‘sustainability’ (I apologise for making ‘Sink’ sound like a ‘green-movement driven video on sustainability’). Then like in many religious fables, he grows into an adult, not immune to the ills and vices of the grown up world. Reminiscent of Kim Ki Duk’s Spring Summer Autumn Winter and Spring, the boy returns to the sink as a bearded young man. This time, he's an inpatient lad who brings with him violence that he has inherited from the outside world. Under his reckless hands, the sink gets 'dismembered' eventually and with the rising tide, the sink is 'consumed' and left in a sorry state.

'Sink' is a near-perfect communion of form, theme and story-telling. A simple fable, a straight-forward message and a story that unfolds in a linear fashion allws 'Sink' to 'seep' easily into our consciousness. What completes the experience is undoubtedly being transported right into the expanse of the sea, listening to the pulsating waves, watching the water foam as it approached the sand and seeing the countless specks of glitter on on the sea, under the glow of the horizon's sun.

After 2 convincing chapters, I felt the film's final chapter lowered its key. Like Kim Ki Duk's film, there was a ending that was a too definite and uneventful. But perhaps it was faithful to the principles of Buddhist teachings. In 'Sink' the young man has matured into a silver-haired old man who has supposedly learnt his lessons in life. But nothing much happens from the advent of this chapter. The story resolves on a comtemplative level. In a funny way, I feel I have been put through a hypnosis in this film with its graceful form. A hypnosis that rarely changes its key or rhythm though.

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