Be With Me My Beloved Love, So My Smile May Never Fade
In another of our many expeditions in seach of the culturally noteworthy, The High Levels took to the cinema today to catch the new Eric Khoo film. In customary High Level fashion, we barely got to the cinema on time, what with The Heat getting detained by respective winsome ladies at the ticketing booth and popcorn counter, who suddenly found themselves perspiring profusely for no reason. Word had it that there was going to be some girl on girl action in the film. And if there was to be, the public may be certain that The High Levels would be there digest it from the intellectual and artistic perspective.
Be With Me was not a very good film in the way that Top Gun was a good film. There was no sex, no good music to hum along to, and no explosions captured in jaw-dropping slow-motion. The narrative fleshed out the lives of five or six (we forget) different individuals, and attempted to intertwine them in a way reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. One or two threads could have been dispensed with altogether. The love between the lesbian couple was, as Rockson would have put it, 'a bit extra'. The film tried to pull one within the emotional intensity of the relationship by inserting lovely little piano/violin duets at critical courtship moments. Yet the outcome of that relationship (as well as its emotional impact) on the audience was dulled, outweighed, and completely trivialised but the other narrative threads. Still, it must be said (we insist) that both actresses photograph splendidly.
Yet aside from the aforementioned technicality, Be With Me is an extraordinary film about loneliness and suffering; on love and its absence. It limps along, then suddenly, and without warning, goes and breaks your heart. Several of the scenes commanded unspeakable emotional power, reducing The High Levels to sustained bouts of restrained weeping, as well as all manner of uncivilised snivelling. The old shopkeeper put in a Masterclass performace, establishing himself as the emotional pivot of the film. It is from him that the meaning of the film emanates, and it is for him that all tears are shed. The scene in the shophouse where he imagines seeing/not seeing his dead wife had tRYATHLETE closing his eyes in the theater's darkness, unwilling to take any more punishment. The point where the audience observes their hands clasp over her mouth as he plants a desolate kiss on her forehead, sent the entire HL crew into visible and audible convulsions. By the time he wept in the blind and deaf woman's arms, the entire cinema was wracked with grief (save for the few who found the blind and deaf woman's speech amusing, and the same people who found the foiled suicide of the jilted lesbian hilarious).
The values of the film, in its evocation of human dignity, courage, estrangement and love left the High Levels humbled. It painstakingly strips away all that is material, forcing us to look at humanity at its most fundamental levels of naked emotion. The film takes us to a place where the meaning of love embeds itself within watercress soup and steamed rice; where love finds itself destroyed, and in turn destroys those who loved through grief. A place where all that remains of love is its remembrance. It is a place where people eat only in order that they may go on loving.
You have it on good authority. Be With Me is the moment of local cinema.