Review: Beyond 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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