Film Review: Outsiders (2004)
The 2004 independent feature film by Singaporean director Sam Loh, explores the criminal mind and actions of a disturbed individual who delights in the forbidden act of necrophilia. The most interesting thing about the film however, is the fact that it was a project without a script or a budget and that it was harshly clamped down by media authorities in its initial release.
The actors on board were granted the liberty to prepare their own script based on plot outlines and environmental cues set forth by the director.
As a result, the art of improvisation became an integral ingredient in the filming process. This is a similar tactic employed in the cult thriller, The Blair Witch Project (1999).
The film is an investigative story of a troubled antagonist who perpetrates heinous acts of sexual violence due to his own biological shortcomings and traumatic past.
Loh was largely inspired by the DV (Digital Video) revolution of the time, which spawned great fuss-free cinematic success in The Celebration and The Idiots (both filmed in 1998) when he was still a film student. He decided to act upon his goal of producing a piece with the DV format.
The film was entirely shot via a handheld device and utilised natural lighting. The shoot schedule was paced out across the span of more than a year, filmed once or twice a week when all actors were available.
The level of creative freedom offered to cast and crew was so inspiring and infectious that when it finally came to the wrapping of the production, the director indubitably felt a sore.
Loh had met his band of dedicated thespians through one of his female leads, Corrine Adrienne, who he collaborated with from a previous production.
There were other aspiring actors living under the same roof as Adrienne at the time who were soon roped in for the experimental production. The hopeful artistes were to achieve mainstream success in the media shortly after their stint with Loh.
The idea was sparked in the director after reading the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by late Lois Lane actress Margot Kidder, who recounted her experience living in an apartment with fellow stars and being collectively cast for a series of successful films.
Loh was interested in the concept of working with a bunch of passionate actors who had a strong offstage cohesiveness and sought to recreate the ‘’Kidder effect’’ for his set.
Although there was no budget allotted to the production, the director worked towards good cinematography, lighting and sound within his means.
Shoots were often conducted by a two-man crew, involving just the Director of Photography and the sound man.
One of the difficulties experienced during filming was continuity, due to the lengthy periods of disruption between shoots. Loh had to piece together raw footage using jump shot editing in illustrating a smooth narrative.
For most independent filmmakers, one of the biggest challenges faced is the lack of support from leading production studios and the criteria of stringent censorship boards.
Loh had his success hindered due to this. The Media Development Authority of Singapore demanded three cuts to the film, which severely impacted the intended flow of the story.
This led the director to a painful decision in rescinding his participation in the film festival, which would have unveiled the novel work to the eyes of the public back in 2004.
The trimmed necrophiliac scenes had been integral in the storytelling process of the movie and were filmed in a series of documentary-style long shots with little focus on the sexual deviation.
The goal was to portray the loneliness and damage contained within the antisocial personality and how it affects the whole sequence of miscreant behaviour.
According to the director, the quality of his movie would have been scarred by needless censorship.
After twelve long years, there came the official public screening of Outsiders through the support of an independent screening gallery. It was a long treacherous journey and most of the technology used in film proved outmoded by the time of its release.
However, the immortal appeal of the film is located in its essence; a product of brimless creativity and artistic freedom.
Sam Loh decided to name his independent Production company, Outsider Pictures, as he felt a general empathy for outsiders who were often marginalised by the masses, being a freelancer within the domain of film.
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Author: Laurenzo Jude