STOP10 Aug 2017: 'The Last Shift' by Nikko Koh

‘The Last Shift’ from writer-director Nikko Koh stars Mok Type Par who plays Lim, an elderly security guard who is, as suggested by the title, is on his final shift before (presumably) retirement. Clocking in at a brisk yet leisurely 5 minutes, the film is quotidian, low key and earnest, nimbly sidestepping the associated pitfalls that befall retirement stories.

The film opens with a shot of an image of the sea, a suggestion of freedom that is paradoxically hemmed in by its current medium of representation. The shot recalls a similar idea evoked in ‘Barton Fink’ (1991) by The Coens, where a playwright stymied by writer’s block, is figuratively and literally trapped in his tiny hotel room, sweating out words as he casts his imagination longingly to an image of the beach tacked on his wall. Similarly with ‘The Last Shift’, the picture serves as a portal of escape for Lim, an oasis that sits tantalizingly close to fruition as he whittles down the final hours of his duty.

It is telling that the film’s grammar is composed entirely of medium close to close up shots, save for the lone wide shot that sees Lim relaxed by the beach. The juxtaposition between the claustrophobic shots of Lim in his cramped guard post with the vast openness of the sea would be a simple, if a little on the nose, way of communicating Lim’s mood. To the film’s credit however, it complicates this simple reading with the its most winning moment, the lingering final shot creeps towards and eventually settles as a close up on Lim. It is a look not of mirth but wistfulness, regret almost. As Lim sits there contemplating, casting his mind out to the sea, we wonder alongside him.

Was it a life well lived?

Written by Koh Zhi Hao

Catch The Last Shift as a prelude to French feature film In Profil Pour Deux on 29 August Tuesday, 8pm at Alliance Francaise

Written by Koh Zhi Hao

For the full list of August 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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