A Land Imagined
A national rejuvenation, an economic miracle, Singapore succeeds through something tangible yet perverse: it keeps making itself bigger. Neighbouring lands export sand and labour. Sovereignty is blurred, disorientating migrants and natives alike. The extension of the physical border and the fuel of virtual reality creates an uncertain imaginary: identity falters, mystery supersedes clarity, madness reigns. What happens if you are lost within?
Yeo Siew Hua’s knotty, perplexing film grasps and discards this central question, producing a deliberately sly, hallucinatory work. By combining genres – thriller, realist drama and most potently, neo-noir – the director takes us deep into murky delusion, corporate conspiracy and worker exploitation. The essential thread is aloneness, a state both intoxicating and nightmarish. It’s a lot, really.
Policeman Lok (Peter Yu) is assigned to investigate a missing persons case. Wang (Liu Xiaoyi), a Chinese construction worker, frequents an online gaming attic. Mindy (Luna Kwok), exoticised and capricious, tempts him from the screen. Ajit (Ishtiaque Zico), Wang’s emblem of pure companionship, falls into a sinister, cold-eyed, exceptional abyss. Everyone speaks as if human after the fact.
One gets the sense Lok and Kwan are looking for each other, while Mindy acts as a beguiling intermediary, a figure extracted from technology, wistful and translucent. Ajit is the touch point of empathy, cruelly smothered. Despite mobility being innate to their jobs, the characters are frustrated, fixed. Meanwhile, scenery dissolves around them.
A Land Imagined is a formal failure. The end elicits an extended shrug, a sideways glance, a benign grimace. Motivations are lost in a haze of stilted conversation. Jeopardy consoles itself in abstract visions, in computer delirium, in sick-worthy first-person shooters. Said scenes are mostly fascinating, intellectually inquisitive and thematically ambitious, but yield a dissatisfying whole. Fragmented visions offer concentrated pleasures, these contained to a booth, hooked up to a monitor.
A Land Imagined does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for A Land Imagined here: