Review - 'The Transplants' by Tan Jing Liang (NTU ADM Film Class of 2013)

Tan Jing Liang’s ‘The Transplants’ stands in sharp contrast to Dzafirul’s ‘Abang’ in the way plays out tension and angst in repressive manifestations under deliberate directorial strokes. Reminiscent of a certain strand of the Taiwanese arthouse new-wave style in the 1980s or 1990s, the film is built on moments of characters in ambiguous states of angst and calculation.

Two characters, somewhat a couple, are stuck in a unnamed place where they are supposed to find a sense of home in. We are not entirely sure if that place is Singapore. One is a mainland young Chinese girl, seems like a foreign student and displays constant signs of displacement, unwilling to get into the flow of what’s around her. The other is supposedly a local who does not feel a sense of allegiance to his own culture and is equally displaced. Needy as they are, they choose to retain their conflicted consciousness, drawing a line between them instead of relenting to human comfort of company.

In a film dotted with sometimes jarring visual metaphors like a lonely mascots appearing in the scene’s periphery and water flooding the flat (a la Tsai Ming Liang’s ‘The Hole’), Jing Liang seeks to present a state of mind rather than tell a story. This is sometimes intriguing, sometimes alienating. It is alienating because instead qualifying or digging into their psyche, the film slips into an indulgent journey of poeticizing displacement and loneliness.

However, its poeticism has a arc as well in which the ambiguities and the open-ends (and wounds) in the film find closure through surrealistic jolts to our senses like a flooded room and a the couple having a public all to themselves save for another random mascot. The escapism in the ending perhaps suggests what the director feels is an answer to a displacement that has no real answers, a mental masturbation that has no happy ending.

Review by Jeremy Sing
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