7th Singapore Short Cuts - 'Nobody's Home' by Nelson Yeo

Nelson's taken a leap in his execution and vision with Nobody's Home. He's had a few short films going around between First Takes and other one-off screening events but none were confident in their execution as this one. The premise is an obvious long shot - Western genre in a HDB setting. What on earth does the HDB-scape have that is inspired heroism, courage, dare-devil acts and the swashbuckling spirit of a cowboy? What then appears at first glance to me is two Ah Bengs dealing with money under the table while drifting in and out of staircases and void decks. But on hindsight, I though it was quite ingenious of Nelson to reinterpret the Ah Beng into a cowboy parallel. Having said that, none of it would have been effective if not for its thoughtful and well-designed cinematography. Moving shots punctuated with appropriate pauses, clever play with spaces and a wise choice of Queenstown (the abandoned part) all added to its visual aesthetic.

In particular, a scene in which a strategically placed camera swings us to and fro between 2 different sections of a building stands out as a signature style of the film. It seems like a hybrid between an arthouse-type voyeurism and the makings of a thriller. In fact, all that furtive panning reminds me of Pen-ek’s ‘Invisible Waves’ – also a brilliant play on spaces. The main let-down about ‘Nobody’s Home’ is the fact that a thoughtful visual play is resting on a paper-thin plot and under-explained characters. In fact, seen through logical eyes, the Western spoof in a HDB settings make no sense and could only be the result of a whim to flesh out certain fantasies. But isn't a great film about 'transporting' the viewer and adding something new to the general cinematographic vocabulary?

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