Pontianak films inspired Glen Goei's new movie
SINGAPORE – A decade will sit between the release of Glen Goei’s last film and his next. The reason for the long hiatus: Money, or rather, the lack of it.
After the release of his second film, the murder mystery The Blue Mansion in 2009, Goei had wanted to start work on his next project.
“But funding was a problem,” he tells The Straits Times. But now, photography has wrapped on his next feature, Revenge Of The Pontianak, which will be released next year.
Goei, who is a co-artistic director with theatre company Wild Rice, says the wheels on his latest project began turning after funding came in from the Singapore Film Commission and other sources.
The film, which he co-wrote and co-directed with frequent theatre collaborator Gavin Yap, deals with the South-east Asian myth of the vampiric female demon known as the pontianak.
Starting in the 1950s, a popular series of movies featuring the creature was made by Cathay-Keris Studio in Singapore. Its rival Shaw Brothers followed up with its own versions.
Goei, 55, says he used to watch the pontianak films on television when he was a child.
“I want to pay homage to all those films I grew up with,” he says. Like the movies he saw, his film is set in the 1960s. The dance musical Forever Fever (1998), his first film, is set in the 1970s.
“I’m nostalgic for the period. The 1960s and 70s are decades I’m fond of,” he says.
The film will have the deep saturated colours of a film from that time, but he says he is not just staying true to the look of the classic pontianak format.
The Blue Mansion and Forever Fever feature English dialogue, but for his third picture, the cast is made up of Malay actors from Singapore and Malaysia, speaking Malay.
The cast includes veteran Malaysian actor Wan Hanafi Su, who played the older executioner in Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice (2016), with Malaysian singer and actress Nur Fazura taking the lead role.
Filming took place in Selangor, in a kampung that looked correct for the period.
Goei’s film is a straightforward work of horror, with only one deviation from the classic template.
“The story will be seen from the pontianak’s point of view,” he says, a change from the old movies which were seen from the victim’s perspective.
The acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who worked on Hong Kong films celebrated for their poetic visuals, such as Chungking Express (1994) and Ashes Of Time (1994) was brought in as visual consultant.
Doyle helped make sure there was beauty to go with the images that invoke fear. There has to be more happening on screen than just horror, says Goei.
“This is set in the 1960s, when women had hourglass figures and wore sarong kebayas and men were much better groomed.”
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