Film Review: No Love For The Young // Tiada Cinta Selama Muda (2020)

For one and a half hours, a group of performance artists interpret words through dance, movement and a great deal of posturing in the film Tiada Cinta Selama Muda. The group of artists differ in their physicality and personal auras, yet in the exploration of various terms of affection as the film is thematically positioned, they provide a rather harmonious and textured recital of their thoughts about love. 

This film by Ridhwan Saidi opens with various artists asked about what different terms denoting affection mean to them. ‘Apa Itu Ashek?’ (Ashek means infatuation) A voice behind the camera directs the question to the first artist who, propped on a rock by the sea, digs into her emotional bank, seemingly in an act of creative collaboration, replies that infatuation is like dancing. The process is repeated with other words and other artists, each featured in a mix of dramatic backgrounds. A series of these linguistic interpretative moments are staggered throughout the film, punctuated by interludes of dance recitals that seek to interpolate further the nuances hidden within these words and areas where they overlap. In the intermixing of dance movement and what is essentially a video rendition of a word game played with all the actors, the film succeeds in building up a rich tapestry of sound, movement and meaning within a specific cultural context. 

As the artists go about drawing their own boundaries and creating their own rules about the varying degrees of affection, lurking beneath that creative energy is something more unsettling that seems to form the emotional core of the film - the thought of an artist taking a void in their own lives and turning it into art. To say this certainly comes across as a tad rude and presumptuous - as if to say artists are incapable of finding love and all they can do is muse about love. However, the way the film is presented gives reason to support this rather tragic view of the players. In several dance and movement sequences, the actors play out various scenes of unrequited love. One dancer would stretch out her hand or lean on a shoulder in a show of affection only to have it forcefully brushed away. The movement repeats itself, morphing into a physical routine. There are also moments in which the players engage in sharing personal accounts of their lives, many of which involve issues of identity struggles in school. Therefore, however much the players ignite moments of escapism and pleasure as they are being triggered by the parlour game of words, and they imagine themselves ‘eating durians’ or ‘drinking hot soup on a rainy day’, the mood always reverts to one that is nuanced with bittersweetness and irony. 

The other journey this film makes is one into the psyche of the Malay language. Even though love is a universal feeling, one learns from the film that there is a spectrum of terms in Malay denoting various shades of meanings, giving rise to ambiguity in expressing affection, reminding one how easily affections often get misconstrued. The term Malu is defined as being shy while popular usage has given it the meaning of being embarrassed. The term sayang could possibly be one of the most commonly used terms denoting anything from care to affection to even regret. Keramat also makes an interesting study of a double-entendre, denoting the sacred but also in more positive terms a miracle. Some browsing on the internet with the term will also show up links to a popular 2009 Indonesian horror movie. Evidently, the Malay language is fluid and playful, with the inherent ambiguity a mirror reflection of the film’s own fluidity in form. 

The film is in essence an attempt to build a collective consciousness among a group of people. Within the film, these people are sometimes actors and sometimes experiment subjects. As actors, they do not engage in any form of thespian grandstanding. Every movement seems an genuine interpretation of the stimuli they are given and they switch seamlessly between their performance persona and their personal selves. Consensual, strange as it seems, might be the word to describe the film. Every actor is given free rein to carve out his or her own identity in pockets of screen time and they still blend easily when they come together. Many dance films fit into the antithesis of a film like this, where precision reigns. In Tiada Cinta Selama Muda, the idea of precision is alien. The director and players are just contented with keeping it fluid and consensual. 

Review by Jeremy Sing 

The film had its world premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2020. We hope it comes to a festival near you.

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