STOP10 Mar 2017: 'Before the Wedlock House' by Liao Jiekai


A wedding video filled with irony. Not the best gift to your childhood friend who is getting married. But a great gift to the audience. Filmmaker Liao Jiekai opens a door into the mind of a bride who is about to be received by her groom, one where the romanticism of a wedding mixes with the practicalities of the rituals, where mushiness mixes with some delightful humour.


In ‘Before the Wedlock House’, the bride allows filmmaker Liao to follow her in close lengths documenting her pre-dawn conversations with her make-up artist and the early birds in her wedding entourage. In conversational chapters, we learn about the relationships between her, the filmmaker and the greater environment that surrounds them.

The film relentlessly documents how the bride disparages the filmmaker’s profession and craft, saying she might only watch his films if they were like Koran dramas. Yet, she has inadvertently brought the film and the artistry of Liao’s vision to life by way of her matter-of-fact straight-talking honesty. The film also slaps on another ironic layer with her describing how she used to idolize the filmmaker when they were children, though she now calls him a ‘poor artist’.  



On another level, the film offers us a peep-hole into society through the make-up artist’s anecdotal contributions in the conversation, alluding to unhappy couples who fight before or during their wedding or family troubles that have dented many ceremonies. Together with objective and sentimentally detached shots like the establishing pre-dawn HDB wide shot, they seem to point towards a wider commentary the filmmaker wishes to make. Interestingly, the filmmaker’s also found a good defending voice in the make-up artists who tells the practical bride that the filmmaker friend may one day become famous and earn lots of money. 

The film’s resonance also lies in the duality the bride displays and how the camera has captured her varied moments. She is chirpy and humorous at one moment and reflective at another. Maybe it’s the veil that clouds our view of her, giving her a natural atmospheric aura, even though her behavioral swings are undeniable. Or perhaps it’s the camera’s attentiveness to the subject, celebrating her joys on at one moment with full-on shots of her beaming smile, while meditating on her pockets of contemplation the next moment with the dreamy, white-washed overtones. 

Review by Jeremy Sing 

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Before the Wedlock House, a short film by Liao Jiekai, will be screened as part of the National Museum of Singapore's Cinémathèque Selects programme. This month's Cinematheque Selects focusses on sound design and showcases the short films works of sound designer Lim Ting Li. Before the Wedlock House is one of the short films she has worked on and she has this to say about her work in the film....

Wedlock is a personal favourite of mine - Not just to work on but as a film. The audience is put in such a privileged and rare position, staying on the bride's side of a customary Chinese wedding procession. As with documentaries, sometimes the realness of the footage comes at the expense of good sound recording, so quite a bit of work was spent trying to raise the clarity of the conversations. I love it that we're hearing what the bride hears, all the ruckus outside her room and anticipating the groom's arrival with her. 


We picked the brains of director Liao Jiekai with some burning questions and here's what he has to say...

Was the film's product planned or totally incidental? 
The production of the film was a spontaneous decision. The night before her wedding, my cousin called me to remind me of the red packet I am supposed to give her on her wedding day; I decided to make a video for her instead of giving her money, partly because I didn't like to be told what to do. So on the day itself, I filmed the wedding as a one man crew, giving myself the strict parameters of only staying in the bride's room. I edited the film a year later, and made it into the short documentary it is. Like all films, it is definitely planned and constructed; just that the content of the film was entirely spontaneous - I just shoot what I see and did not stage anything. 

Why black and white? 
I shot the film with an old HD P2 camcorder that has very bad light sensitivity compared to the video technology of today. As a result, I had to push the image both in production and in post, resulting in an extremely noisy image that has very muted colors. The luminance quality of the image suffered so much that I thought might as well just make it black and white. 

Why call the marriage the wedlock house? 
American experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage made a film titled "Wedlock House: An Intercourse", which is a really beautiful but also abstract film about a couple making love. So I thought, maybe I can borrow the term "Wedlock House". Although my film is for sure nothing like his.




Event Details

Date: Saturday 11 March 2017
Time: 2pm
Venue: Gallery Theatre, Basement, National Museum of Singapore 

Cinémathèque Selects is a monthly double-bill screening that brings together a Singapore film and a second film that inspired it. Each double-bill is accompanied by a “Question and Answer” session with the Singaporean film-maker. Focusing on diverse aspects of film-making, from directing to producing, script writing to cinematography and art direction, the series is a study of important local productions. 

For the latest classification ratings and information, please visit www.nationalmuseum.sg. Ticketing Information 
Standard Ticket: $11 for one film, $16 for both films 
Concession (for student, senior aged 60 & above & NSF with valid ID): $9 
Group Bookings: $6.50 per ticket for a minimum of 5 pax 
Tickets are available from SISTIC at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/ccinema0317 
Ticket price excludes $1 SISTIC fee.

Written by Jacqueline Lee

For the full list of March 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.

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