The general impression of Singapore is of an over-bearing, authoritarian city-state, whose citizens sacrafice certain civil liberties in return for an efficient and spotless metropolis
Like Hero, minor sacrafices for the greater good.
Unlike Hero, there is no nobility or glory in being an unwilling sacrifice.
15 is a film about being amongst those sacrifices. The juveniles unable or unwilling to fit in and be productive members of society are the central protagonists, operating in pairs, occasionally with the intrusion of a third. Without a sense of place and identity, they obviously rebel and react violently to the society that would be happier not knowing them. But when the rage is exhausted, there is that perpetual sense of despair and disenchantment that permeates what they know is an empty existance. They find solace in the company of their fellow disenfranchised – seeking to feed upon each others passions to stave off the coldness of their despair.
It is often not enough however and some do actively seek oblivion – existing in a fugue, occassionally and briefly enlivened by a simple act of humanity.
This pervading sense of doom suggests 15 is thickly layered with pathos and darkness. Instead, while there is that hopelessness there, both the participants and audience are distracted by shallow, yet easily digestable moments of entertainment that are comedic in their irreverence – sufficient for the brief flashes of deep introspective self-loathing to be poignant and incredibly effective.
15 does not push an agenda in any heavy handed manner. There are no arguments and counter arguments that justify or rationalise this existance. It just portrays it. The existance of ‘normal’ society seems irrelevant but to demonstrate the callousness it has for the world 15 portrays and provide a target to which the inhabitants can react and expend their impotent rage.
While 15 is a dark film, the characters mask themselves with such an exubrance and callousness that their antics are both energetic and entertaining. When played against the context of the rest of the film, there is however a growing shame at being distracted by such superficiality that is somewhat tinged with a sense of relief that it is not us on screen.