'Threshold' by Loo Zihan - (FLARE 2009)

The tropical jungle murals on the walls of the hotel room remind me of the kitschy 70s/early 80s style of interior design that was so de rigeur. I am not sure if the set was meant to be time-specific or just a tool of displacement. With the mobile phones and the frequent use of sms, it seemed closer to the present time. Or perhaps, it was meant to be an imagined, indefinite past.

'Threshold' is a substantive effort that succeeds on both its thematic content and its narrative. Non-linear and surprising at every turn, I have not quite seen anything like this among local short films. It is also mature and layered in its treatment of homosexuality, reflecting the issue on a social and personal level. The issues encircling the characters can even be interprested on a universal level making giving this film extra mileage.

The film is loosely based on an entrapment case in Singapore. 2 men are on standby as bait for Terry who is on his way to deliver drugs and also to catch up with Anton(whom he is a friend of ) in a physical way. The characters are clearly defined right from the start. Boon is the more straight-talking, in-you-face police regular who has a 'let-it-all-hang-loose' attitude to life. There is nothing to 'tuck' away. Raymond Yong plays this role to precision (even better than his taxi driver role in 'Promises in December'). Anton provides a contrast to Boon's character. He is the yin of the yin-yang in this pair. He is broody, troubled and in a state of dilemma. Justin Kan is competent in the role and his inner conflicts are also fed to us in graduation as tension mounts in the film.
The film is mostly a smooth glide until the final moments. The hallucinatory scenes in the jungle with blood and all also provide some form of sudden punctuation to the narrative. While these scenes provide dramatic accents to the general drift of things, they also lead to choppy editing. this leads me to wonder if there was a better way for Terry to 'appear' in the film. Maybe an imagination of him from other clues could be more illuminating. After all, we have been led so seamlessly to the threshold of the issue that we could be left to imagine the rest.
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