Does A Land Imagined try to be too enigmatic for its own good? Perhaps it does, but the Singaporean film provides plenty of dark poetry and beauty to compensate.
Singapore has found a way to expand without ordering the army to colonize the neighbouring countries. The South-East Asian island nation is gaining territory in the ocean by importing incredible amounts of sand and rock on which building companies then develop megalomaniacal projects. These enormous construction works recruit hundreds of cheap migrant workers who are often treated badly.
Director Yeo Siew Hua is now indicting their outrageous, proletarian situation. But instead of presenting a social-realist drama, he has chosen to make a film noir that leads to a Lynchian situation. Watching this film only once is not enough to understand exactly what is going on or to be completely sure whether it was necessary to interweave reality and nightmares and to confuse the audience with flashbacks and flashforwards. But even if the mystery is a little far-fetched, A Land Imagined deserves your attention.
A police detective sinks his teeth into the disappearance of an exploited Chinese migrant worker by taking his place. After an accident at work, the man in question became a chauffeur who spent his sleepless nights at the cybercafé run by a mysterious, mouthy woman and who is very worried about the disappearance of his friend and colleague from Bangladesh.
The plot is only one of the film’s many building blocks. Things do not always move forwards (or backwards) very quickly, but they don’t need to. This film delights the viewer primarily with its pictorial beauty and the immersive night-time atmosphere that the director is better than most at creating.
Whether it is built on shaky foundations or not, the beautifully filmed sunsets, rainbows, no-man’s-land, neon lights, strange décors, and jazzy music whisk you away to an intriguing imagined country. Impressively done by Yeo Siew Hua.