Malaysia's mystical-noir 'Interchange' to open 27th Singapore International Film Festival

The 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) will open on 23 November this year with Interchange, a noir fantasy thriller by Malaysian director, Dain Iskandar Said.  It will be the film’s premiere in Asia after having premiered in Locarno and Toronto recently.

“Choosing it as SGIFF's opening film shows our commitment to celebrating our own voices, highlighting the capability of our creative industry, and welcoming a wider audience to the promise of Southeast Asian cinema,” said Executive Director of SGIFF, Yuni Hadi.

Dain Iskandar Said’s eagerly awaited third feature, conjures visions of supernatural mysticism and subterranean noir, set in the contemporary yet shadowy Malaysian metropolis.

The film deals with a former forensic photographer Adam (Iedil Putra), pulled back in to the fore to aid Detective Adam (Shaheizy Sam) with a series of macabre murders involving photographs found in the crime scene. His neighbour, femme fatale Iva (Prisia Nasution), who he voyeuristically photographs, also becomes entangled in the mystery involving hanging corpses drained of blood expertly told in Dain Iskandar Said’s bold vision.

Our thoughts?

Dain Iskandar Said not only presents a confidently made genre film but one that confronts our anxiety with the idea of change, showcasing modernity intruding upon the past through the ethereal violence inflicted upon tribal heritage. He also challenges the secular with the mystical, the rational with the faithful.

Interchange however does slip into some of the expected traps of its’ own genre. Firstly it sometimes becomes convoluted with its ambitious plot that it becomes hard to follow the police procedural that makes up most of the second act. The puzzling events are puzzling from lack of clarity rather than the cleverness of the writers with some characters speaking in vague poetic sentences that confuse us more than being deeply philosophical.

Secondly the characters play too close to the genre’s tropes that they almost move and act without any clearly defined motivation of their own. Some characters simply move from scene to scene because of the demands of the plot and genre rather than with any intent of their own. In particular the female characters show up for no reason and leave with no reason. Mostly, they seem happy with just circling and pacing around men in a seductive manner.

That being said, the Malaysia/Indonesia collaboration is artistically richest and most intriguing when dealing with its shamanistic folklore. The story draws upon the rich fables of the Nusantara region and turns it up a notch. This is done through the mystery of Belian, (Nicholas Saputra, above) a bird-like hooded figure as well as the story of a Borneo tribe photographed 100 years ago.  The sequences that involve these two elements are truly beguiling and arresting that it deserves to take the front stage at this year’s SGIFF.

The 27th Edition of the Singapore Film Festival runs from 27th November to 8th December 2016, in conjunction with the Singapore Media Festival.

By Rifyal Giffari

Images: Danny Lim © Apparat 2016
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