post ciNE65 - Observations on Nostalgia

Nostalgia of Old Singapore

Nostalgia :
  1. A sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
  2. The evocation of these feelings or tendencies, esp. in commercialized form

Singapore in modern terms has become the concrete jungle that we have grown so accustomed to. I have to admit I personally have a soft spot for nostalgia films thus heightens my interest towards films that embodies nostalgic art direction. With modernism creeping slowly and the exisiting Generation Z accepting their fate of living in a first world country, the Baby Boomers and Generation X and Y members begin to reference ideals from their era in comparison with the mannerism of post year 2000. As Kopi tiams turn into Starbucks and hawker stalls into food courts, I can't help but notice the flourishing of nostalgia ambience of F&B places eg: Chye Seng Huat Hardware which plays upon the rustic feel of an old school coffee shop of the 1970s. Truly nostalgia plays a key role as a visual treat for Singaporeans who wish to escape the symmetrical designs of buildings that surround our daily lives. Cine65 film entries take advantage of this nostalgia feeling that we have by clever art direction of props and locations that reflect a time that has been forgotten. After watching the film entries of Cine65, i have decided to touch on nostalgia and broke it down into 3 elements that are emergent in these short films.

Locations : (Vanishing Trades and Unforgettable and Footprints)
A location can trigger a sense of déjà vu with an audience. Choosing the appropriate location allows a film to transcend time , allowing audiences to immerse themselves into the environment and tap upon the cranial activity to heighten the screenplay of a film. "Vanishing Trades" was an example of inviting audiences within this quaint barber shop and develop the shop to become a character of the film instead of just a film location. The objects within the setting bring forth a sense of nostalgia because every decoration, accessory or equipment tells its own tale. "Unforgettable" sets up its film using an old abandoned cinema thereafter it transits into long corridors of shop houses at Chinatown and finally an old school grocery store. Each location reinforces the theme of past memories that strongly relates with the protagonist and in turn provides audiences a stronger nostalgia motif of Singapore historical locations. I personally enjoyed watching "Footprints" the most and was impressed with the selection of an excellent location for a car mechanic to work in (not too mention using an old model Mercedes Benz to appear in the scene) and the low block of Block 65, i was amazed by the well selected locations within our concrete jungle to tell a story that dated back in the 1970s. 

Props : (Saga Seed and In Return)
Props have played its role well with some notable films within the Cine65 film entries. "Saga Seed" as the title implies a strong connection with the usage of Saga seeds by juxtaposing the saga seed in relation to the crux of the story. With a chain of events that was linked with a single saga seed - a symbolic prop that had evoked bitter-sweet emotions and awakened a string of slumbering memories for the viewers. In addition to the saga seed, suitable costumes were used to reflect the 1950s fashion trend , its aids the audience in pinpointing the correct time frame that the film was set in. Personally I enjoyed feasting my eyes on the art direction of "In Return" , a throw back to Singapore's Kampong days and setting the film in a location that replicated that past age. The most notable in terms of its art direction was the kitchen scene, which truly was a work of art and that portrayed good details to harmonize with the scene.

Voices/Sounds/Language : (Family Portrait)

I enjoyed "Family Portrait" notably on the dialogue.Having mentioned that locations and props are some of the pivotal elements in creating a nostalgic film, a well-scripted dialogue will also propel viewers into a flow state of reminiscence. Picture the scene of 2 elderly actors(or actresses whichever gender is your preference) , one actor recited it in English and the other using the dialect Hokkien , which actor would aurally feel more old school? By using 3 different languages , watching this short film made me feel the different era of each character representing an ideology of the passage of time brought out from each generation of this family.  

In conclusion, each element touches an audience's emotions and thoughts. Modernization will persist to improve and to maintain our first world country status. But in retrospect, how would our lives be if we were transported back into time to relive our lives in the 1950s or 1970s? Will a different generation or time alter the self in comparison of the present year?..... i wonder.....

Words by Dietrich Mohan
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