The Breaking Ice

The Breaking Ice is a romantic coming-of-age drama written and directed by Singaporean helmer Anthony Chen. The film is released on tenth anniversary of Chen’s debut Illo Illo. Set in China, the movie revolves around the blossoming relationship between three young adults in their twenties.

At its core, the story of The Breaking Ice falls into the love triangle trope, first popularised perhaps in the French new wave film, Jules and Jim (1962). According to IMDb. com, the premise is as follows –

In cold wintry Yanji, a city on China’s northern border, young urbanite Haofeng, visiting from Shanghai, feels lost and adrift. By chance, he goes on a tour led by Nana, a charming tour guide who instantly fascinates him. She introduces him to Xiao, a personable but frustrated restaurant worker. The three bond quickly over a drunken weekend. Confronting their individual traumas, their frozen desires slowly thaw as they seek to liberate themselves from an icy world.

Now, the film leans heavily on the ice metaphor, it is inescapable from the opening scene onwards to Haofeng’s penchant for chewing on ice cubes. This theme is elaborated on visually by the gorgeous cinematography, especially in the third act, where our trio explores mountain terrain in search of Heaven’s Lake. These all represent the inner turmoil of the characters – frozen in time and place, with the reality of shattered dreams and unhappiness a depressing constant.

At the recent premiere, director Chen stressed the fact that the film is an “arthouse film” and he did so, almost apologetically. Presumably, he understood that in Singapore itself, the appreciation of art is virtually non-existent. Chen need not be too concerned about Singaporean reactions to his film, it’s time for Chen and other local directors to set their eyes on the world stage and not bother about local sensibilities anymore.

In conclusion, while The Breaking Ice might not be suitable for mainstream Singaporean tastes overall, it is a film well worth your time and effort, simply as an appreciation of life. Recommended.

Opening in Golden Village cinemas on September 7th.

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