Singaporean director Eric Khoo's latest production, In the Room, marks the 6th feature film after focusing on series of short films in the recent years. While Khoo wants to explore the theme of love and sex in his latest full length feature, the final work will be a jaw-dropper to his fans, or anyone who has watched his previous films.
In the Room is made up of six different short stories which happen in Singapura Hotel, a fictional hotel which is set in Singapore. Spanning across 6 decades and longer, it focuses on various stories which takes place in Room 27. The story opens with a homosexual couple (Singaporean actors Koh Boon Pin & Daniel Jenkins) discussing if they should stay in Singapore or went to England during World War 2 in Singapore. It continues with how a brothel Madame (Hong Kong actress Josie Ho) who teachers her girls on how to gain the female power from their male clients through training on their vagina during 1950s. During the mid 60's, a lead singer, Damien (Singaporean actor Ian Tan), met a new chambermaid named Imrah and was attracted to her. Never did he expect that he will lost his life due to drug overdose in a sex, rock and roll New Year's party. Damien's spirit brought the audience to the 1970s, where a Thai transsexual is assuring his male partner that he will be alright when he undergo gender reassignment surgery the following day, followed by a bored Japanese housewife (Japanese AV actress Show Nishino) having an affair with a handsome looking Singaporean Chinese young man (Lawrence Wong) during the 1980s. Not to forget that Damien leads the audience to how a Korean couple (Choi Woo Shik and Kim Kkiobi) discussing the importance of love and sex during their holiday in Singapore in the 1990s, which follows by how the demise of Imrah at work leads to the fall of Hotel Singapura.
Khoo has once again explored his usual theme in his movies: loneliness and solitude. Compared to his previous works such as Mee Pok Man (1995), 12 Storeys (1997) and more recently, Tatsumi (2011), Damien's role serve as an observer across the different eras, where different people are experiencing love and seeking sex to fulfill the loneliness inside them. However, compared to his other films, sex has become an outlet to fulfill their loneliness rather than lust to meet their biological needs. This can be seen from the last three stories in the film, where we see how 1) the Thai transsexual afraid that his male partner will leave her after the operation, 2) the Singaporean young man persuades his Japanese lover to leave her loveless marriage, 3) the Korean lady who constantly feels that she wished to be loved, but it can only be achieved through an orgasm.
In the Room also explores the forbidden relationship between members of the same gender, which this can be seen in the first story, where Koh's role was reluctant to abandon his family in Singapore despite having the opportunity to move to England with his male partner to seek for their paradise. Female power was also covered here, where Ho advises her girls to provide their male clients with pleasure and dignity, while at the same time taking the dominant role in bed.
Towards the end of the film, Khoo fails to explain the fall of Hotel Singapura. Audience were brought through a very brief glance on how the famous hotel fails to keep up with times, and ended up crumbling at the corner of a highly developed Singapore, where hookers and gangsters infested Hotel Singapure with sleaze and violence. While the cinematography is beautiful, the storytelling was totally messy. At times, it is draggy. Most of the time, it moves so fast, you will wonder what has happened in the first place.
Just like the mess left behind in every hotel room, the audience left the room with a mess in their head.