Brian's previous works have been distinguished by their use of iconoclastic visual imagery. And many references are made to national icons and symbols in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Having first established himself as a video artist, the 'installation' look is apparent. In a more subtle way, 'Invisible Children' presents a series of troubled lives in 'boxed-up', clean and slightly-stylised kind of setting. Except for the army bunk, there are plenty of white walls and sterilised settings. Singapore looks like a santitised, inhumane, almost surreal kind of place. Many characters wear white or plain off-white clothing. Either that, or uniforms - there were at least 4 ..... army boys, school students, policemen and an air stewardess. If this is all starting to sound like a visual statement, it probably is. Watching this in Berlin in front of a foreign audience, I began to worry if the Germans would view us as people from another planet.
I was actually watching it for the third time. The more I watch, the more the intellectual and conceptual marks of the film speak to me. Lim Poh Huat's character drew consistent laughter from the German audience. Perhaps it speaks to their disciplined nature. But I felt it made a huge and hilarious statement in the film, be it overseas audience or not. Then there was surrealistic disappearing scene which helped the kids escape for 2 stoogey policemen. However, the scene that takes the cake involves Yeo Yann Yann playing a Chinese teacher who speaks teached healthy 'Asian' values. Lol!
On the downside, the emotional aspects speak less and less. Perhaps, this is because not all the characters were defined adequately. A number of characters did seem like token symbols of a larger group of people. This included the stewardess and the lawyer. But the treatment of the 2 army characters and the mother-children trio gave the film more depth and irony. In fact, the film concluded an ambiguous shot of the mum's reaction to seeing something epiphanic, after grieving over the disappearance of her children. Karen Tan locked in a nuanced and affecting performance. The camera holds on her close up as her funereal expression morphs into one that hopeful, yet a 'make-believe' kind of hopeful. This I felt, was probably the emotional centre-gravity of the film (interesting that it is at the end).
Many of Brian's previous works are actually watchable from YouTube. Check out the following titles : Waking the Fluorescent Lion, Imelda Goes to Singapore, Sublime Monsters and Virtual Children, Across Asia.