Interview With Lim Yu-Beng
Q: Who/what do you think MAN represents?
I think firstly, the movie is about the BOY. Everyone there is present in
relation to him. So I think to BOY, the MAN is a number of things. Security,
a trap, a habit you cannot break, faith, hope and love. Not being alone or the illusion of that.
Q: Why did you decide to take on such a challenging role?
I felt the script held a strong feeling, and a stark, quite upsetting core.
The feeling of “alone-ness” was achingly bitter, and I appreciated that.
Also, it was a very daring juxtaposition of stylistic and surreal against cold reality,
something quite achievable in theatre, but very tricky for film. I wanted to explore that
challenge and see if we could make it work. It was clearly written with a great visual idea,
and I enjoyed reading a vision that knew how where to take the film.
Q: How was it like playing the character of a gay teacher having a relationship with his student?
You know, it was just a question of believing it was true. I could easily imagine it. I just had to live it out.
Q: How was it like acting in a film that had no dialogue at all?
What were some challenges and how does it require more from you as an actor?
Interestingly, it is not unlike doing a Pinter play or any scene really.
Not having verbal dialogue does not mean there isn’t any internal dialogue going on.
If anything, the internal dialogue becomes more important than ever. So I had to know exactly
what I was thinking all the time. Or maybe it's more accurate to say I had to make sure
I was truly “in” and living and breathing and thinking every moment.
Q: What are some of your thoughts and feelings on this working journey with Kan Lume and Loo Zihan?
I've enjoyed it immensely. These are guys who care about where the industry is going,
how to be true to your art, guys who want to push boundaries and shape the scene.
You know, it was very clear that we all care passionately about what we do.
So it’s easy to trust where we're each coming from, and have great respect and
confidence working with each other. There's no question. It's the work. That's the
thing we all care about.
Interview with Actress Goh Guat Kian
Q: What do you think your character Mother represents?
Even though she seems like a simple-HDB-mother, I think she is quite a complex character.
Mother is like Singapore’s HDB flats – you’ve got to upgrade them when they are old or face
being phased out. There are no choices. Because although old flats can still house people,
people do not want them for their homes.
Q: ‘Just a lonely mother who is hoping for the return of her son’: Do you think this is enough to sum up Mother’s character in the film?
The Mother we see in the film is always either in the house or in her illusions.
She has never really stepped out of the house. Mother wears the same frock throughout
the film, and she eventually steps out of the house. But did she really get out? I have my doubts.
Personally, I think Mother is not just a lonely mother who is hoping for the return of her son.
Losing other things cannot be compared to losing hope in yourself. She is living in her own world
and resisting change, and like a lot of mothers out there, she only has the identity of a mother,
which leaves her feeling lost and highly vulnerable.
Q: How was it like acting in a film that consists of almost no dialogue at all? Any incident to illustrate the difficulty of not using dialogue to communicate with your audience?
The way humans express themselves is through "language". It is indeed a challenge for the actor
if there is no dialogue. The actor can only rely on body language. Each movement must be choreographed
according to the Director's intention, as well as to achieve a seamless integration with space.
There is one particular scene in the film where Mother is brushing her hair at the dressing table.
Although it is a simple action of brushing, she has to express uneasiness, helplessness and distress
within the few strokes. The fusion of emotions is essential to create a connection with the audience,
and to do an entire film without speech was a new learning experience for me.
Q: If there is one thing the audience has to know about your character, what is it?
Losing other things cannot be compared to losing hope in yourself. Although we are
bounded by circumstances or destiny, it is not the end of your life. If you choose
to enclose yourself, then it is really difficult to move on. Actually, the times when you
look back, you thought you could not make it, but you have actually lived through it now.
Interview with Director/Writer/Actor Loo Zihan
Q: In what ways can you relate yourself with Boy?
The character was not that far away from what I was like at that age. I just drew from memories and simply added in observations of how other teenagers behave. I also think that everyone, at one stage or the other in their lives can identify themselves in Boy’s character. I did, and that was how I related to him.
Q: What inspired you to write the story of Solos?
My inspiration is drawn from everyday life. From observing our surroundings,
from tabloid newspapers, from popular culture... But I would say that what
inspired me to write the story of Solos was the newspaper article about the
tuition teacher molesting his boys, and the boys standing up to defend him.
Of course, Solos is not a direct adaptation of the actual events. But what
intrigued me the most is what happens inside them and their inner struggle.
From there, I started writing out the characters and building up the plot.
Q: This is your second time working with Kan Lume.
What propelled the two of you to work with each other again for Solos?
The first time we collaborated together was in the short film, Untitled,
which we made at the Soul to Soul Festival 2005 during a Take 5! Guerilla
Filmmaking Challenge organised by the Singapore History Museum. We felt that we
complemented each other’s working style well, and wanted to see if our partnership
could be pushed further.
Q: What do you wish for audiences to take back after watching Solos?
We emphasize on the fact that audiences usually show apathy towards Singaporean
films because the films are either too safe, predictable or altogether alienating.
We wanted to make a film that show another part of Singaporean society, and then shake
people out of their apathy. It is important for this film to elicit a response of any
kind, even if it takes the form of disgust. When people take a stand, it means they care
enough to do so. I want people to care about Singapore’s film industry.
Interview with Director Kan Lume
Q: What was the main reason behind the making of Solos?
The reason for which we needed to make this film was to make it change things, bring about culture,
open people’s minds to examine their beliefs Strengthen, encourage, enrage, bring out healthy
discussion and inspire. The most important thing for them was to do it truthfully, openly and without any fear.
Q: Why did you choose to work on a gay theme, especially if it was such a controversial issue in Singapore?
Every important piece of work worth its grain of salt is controversial.
The reason we need to make this film is that it changes things, brings about culture,
opens people’s minds to examine their beliefs, strengthens, encourages, enrages, brings
about healthy discussion, and inspires. The most important thing for us was to do it truthfully,
openly and without fear. Unless we are able to face up to our demons in our Art, we can never fully mature as a people.
Q: Why did you choose to give the characters the generic names of MAN, BOY and Mother,
and how does it contribute to the characters’ identities?
The characters have no names because they are unimportant to the plot.
A generic way of referring to them implies that their relationships could exist with anyone.
More importantly, everything in the film is stripped down to its barest minimum (including the names)
so that the film could maintain an integral Zen-like structure.
Q: Why did you heavily emphasize that the whole movie has no close up shots on the people except on objects?
While limitations tend to cripple people, this limitation actually empowered us.
From the very beginning, we imposed the ‘long shot’ rule on ourselves as a challenge.
Could we tell a story with only long shots and without dialogue? It enabled us to
visualize the film more clearly. We were also interested in a more mature form of
storytelling, because the effect of the long shot is to allow an audience to look
wherever they want to in the frame, as opposed to a director telling them where to
look as in the case of a close-up.
Q: Many of the scenes that took place in the various locations were part of
the surrealistic feel of the entire film. How does that serve its unique purpose
into the visual poetry of the film?
The surrealistic scenes in the film bring the audience into the hearts and minds of
the characters without having to use any dialogue. Film is a powerful medium because
it is able to take an audience on a transcendental journey from the body to the mind
to the spirit. It is up to the audience to decide what each sequence means.
Q: What is the purpose of juxtaposing the white fluorescent lights of Mother’s HDB flat with the tungsten warm lights in MAN’s condo?
It was a conscious choice to keep the look of the two locations as distinct as possible.
The two locations represent two radically different approaches to life for the boy.
He is torn between the two worlds. The film does not make a judgment on which is the better path.
Q: This is your second time working with Zihan (the first being Untitled).
What propelled the two of you to work with each other again for Solos?
Zihan is a talented artist with a visual flair and a mature mind. I wanted to
provide the platform for him to reach the next level in his art and individual
expression. It should be the responsibility of all who have achieved a certain
level to bring someone up with them. If we do that as filmmakers, future generations
would not have to start from scratch.
Q: What are your views on Singapore’s film industry?
Very often we like to compare ourselves with Hollywood films and the Hollywood industry.
The films that are nominated at the Oscars are like beautiful buildings. We’re struggling
with building houses now. Most of us are building dog sheds. We need to progress.
We need leverage from experienced players. We’re not working to become Hollywood.
We’re working to find our own identity.
Interview with Sound Engineer/Music Composer Darren Ng
Q: How was it like working on a film that uses music as its main form of imagery?
While composing the music for Solos, I had to keep in mind that I did not have to try too hard to say something with the music or any sound, which may result in overstating certain themes or emotions or even with an over saturation of a message. The biggest challenge was to keep in mind the aesthetics of the film, when making the right decisions of when and where putting in the music, as well as choosing the themes of the different music parts.
Q: What inspired you to write the music of Solos?
The creation of the music itself was a synergy of ideas. My main inspiration came from Solos’ story and visual but I also drew inspiration from other films such as Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) and Last Life in the Universe (2003).
Q: What was your most interesting production experience while working on this film?
Honestly, it was my first time seeing homosexual sex. I felt uncomfortable not because I was disagreeing, but because it just felt embarrassing to ‘intrude’ into other people’s privacy. It made a difference because I knew the people on the film, and watched it while with them. It was at the same time both an alienating and fresh experience for me.
Q: How was working on Solos different from your other past experiences/projects?
As a theatre sound designer and music composer, I had more liberty with Solos because it was not a live performance. The fact that the film has no real dialogue made it a greater challenge. I am still a novice to feature film sound design and music composition (despite having experience with short films), and working on this production, I learned to adapt a lot to fit the demands of the scenes. It has really been a great learning experience for me.
Q: Were there differences in terms of sound production between you and the directors? If so, how did you try to resolve the different perspectives?
It is only natural for there to be disagreements of ideas and concepts before we reach a general consensus. There were negotiations, hair-pulling sessions, and times where we simply lost our words to articulate what was wrong. Basically, it was all quite improvisational. Zihan would convey his ideas, Kan would convey his ideas, and I would defend mine, and at the end of the day, what is best for the film would be decided upon.
The most important thing about collaborations is not to take things too personal, and to always work with an open mind. No hard feelings, no negative energies.