FLARE 2010 - 'Living It' David Lee

Living It is a largely experimental film that falls flat on itself. With all the ambition that the director seems to have with the film, it fails to deliver on many levels.

It is not the experimentalism that harms the film; there is nothing wrong in experimenting with non linear narrative, or even working without a proper narrative. There is nothing wrong with exploring the mental landscape of a character, and nothing bad about trying out a mixture of visual styles. Both have been done before many times, albeit much less commonly in local film.

It is the director’s lack of purpose in the film that harms it so badly. He cannot decide if he wants the film to be a nuanced exploration of a father-son relationship or a post-modern film that seeks to shock and provoke audiences. He tries for a middle ground, and ends up failing both ways. The film starts off with seemingly normal visuals, and then detours both narratively and visually into a cliché galore.

After the son’s brief moment of contact with his father in his dad’s room, we soon see a physical manifestation of his mental landscape. He is locked up in some pseudo prison cell, which is the director’s obvious way of pointing out that he is trapped in his mindset, and eventually the son is forced to confront his fear. This is also interspersed with random shots of a surgery and some other incoherent and utterly pointless images.

While the montage of different such random shots and images are visually interesting, they remain as that – nice visual works. They do not aid in the exploration of the son’s psyche nor his relationship with his father.

If only the director had tried distinguishing clearly what he wanted to do with the film, and his purpose - whether to make a statement about a father-son relationship, or to venture into a man’s troubled psyche, or simply to shock and make people think with its visuals - the film could have succeeded, because the standalone shots are in themselves beautifully shot. However, the lack of coherence only culminates at the very end with an extremely contrived emotional resolution.

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