Review - 'Cake' by Benjamin Low (Viddsee Series)

SINdie continues with its weekly regular reviews of selected short films from Viddsee, an online platform for filmmakers and watchers of Southeast Asian Films. 

Arthur is a security guard who is literally pushed to the brink of life by supposedly financial woes. The film opens with a tight shot of his shoes on the edge of a building with the blurry background of the passing traffic below, immediately establishing the portrait of a troubled soul. Through the further exposition of his boss’ bullying, we are conditioned to expect a tale of class struggle and victimization. But its turns not to be one.

This short film, as enigmatic as its title ‘Cake’, takes a genre turn before we get comfortable.  Arthur receives a phone call from a stranger speaking in a cold American-accented monotone asking him to switch off the security camera system for 10 minutes in exchange for a sum of money. The effect of this seems at once mystifying and even incredulous – an unexplainable American presence in a remote industrial part of Singapore. But at the same time, it also seems like a fan-boy transplant of Hollywood into an otherwise modestly-scaled film. And does director Benjamin Low manage to pull off a ‘Hollywood in the middle of Tuas’ thriller? It seems so.

At the very core, Benjamin gets a good grip of the moral dilemma that underpins the character, positioning Arthur a flawed protagonist who is walking the tightrope between seeking sustenance and greed, and vacillating between conformity and retaliation. Though starkly fictional in its plot, the scenes depicted are as local as they can get, drawing us closer to the situation and characters. Nick, the sidekick, provides an effective counterpoint to Arthur’s thoughts and action. Finally, the film manages to raise your adrenalin with its evenly-paced build-up and dashes of surprises. And the director does not forget to end with a bang, literally and an actual pay-off to the film’s title.

This film is not without its flaws though. Arthur speaks in a crisp, articulate, news-reader-like English. Cinematography is unimaginative and the boss is a bit of a caricature. Even the classic piano tune overlay at the beginning of the film seemed a little pseudo-arthouse. But get past these and you will realise the film gets the hang of a thriller genre pretty well.

Review by Jeremy Sing

Watch the full short film here on Viddsee


About Viddsee

Viddsee is an online video platform for filmmakers and audience of Southeast Asian short films. Built and designed by engineers and filmmakers, Viddsee enables users to easily discover, watch and share stories from Southeast Asia on their desktop and mobile devices. Our vision is to continually grow the community of short film audiences to enable a wide and accessible market reach for short films and become the leading micro-cinema platform for Asia.
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