Rarely has a film made gang activity as simultaneously attractive and repellent as Royston Tan’s 15: The Movie, a hyper-stylised depiction of Singapore’s teenage male counterculture. The emphasis here is certainly on male: apart from Playboy-style posters covering bedroom walls, women are barely seen in the film: the boys’ social activities revolve solely around each other and interactions with other all-male gangs, while their sex lives seem to purely consist of watching porn and engaging in homoerotic bonding rituals.
The war film historically served a very different purpose in the Soviet Union than it typically did in the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Like many countries – Australia included – the USSR built much of its national and political mythology on military struggle; specifically, its heroic defeat of Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War. Its cinema, therefore, necessarily reflected that, with even dissidents like Aleksei German (Trial of the Road) and Andrei Tarkovsky (Ivan’s Childhood) making World War 2 films with clearly defined heroes and villains. With so much at stake, and such immense suffering endured on the way to victory, what room could there be in such films for the slightest ambiguity?