School on Fire

School on Fire ★★★★½

*no spoilers*
Collab Film Club . 13

Disenchanted youth. Drifting aimlessly, lesson follows lesson. Some prostitute themselves, yet they only use the money to pay off debts. Neglect begets abuse, which in turn begets hostility. Violent role models produce violent children. Authorities do not protect the vulnerable or needy, but other authorities. School rules reinforce the unimportance of students by making it so that threats and spurts of violence between pupils goes unnoticed whereas mild insults towards teachers cause suspension and exclusion. The police serve the purpose of protect the wealthy, the privileged, and the triads. Even triads serve no purpose but to support who has the most control, and who ought to be submissive; who is strong, and who is weak. Youth, in search of a non-existing ether. An endless mission to achieve clarity, to have a purpose. A reason to carry on, a reason not to give up. Dragging themselves through nightclubs, pretending to feel some sort of enjoyment, performing to themselves.

Ringo Lam is not simply angry, oh no, he is pissed off. Pissed off at Hong Kong, pissed off at the state of its adolescence and pissed off at the state of its leaders. A social critique executed with maximalist sensibilities. A social drama in the style of an action film, a ballet of criticisms, an analysis told as a dance. Bursts of hyper-saturated colour juxtaposing the mundanity of what is being depicted. Spurts of violence are all that distracts from endless monotony. Running away: impossible. This is a society that those who enter cannot escape, trapped in the consumerist city. Income is all that matters, grow up to be able to buy whatever you want whilst very well knowing that nothing will bring happiness. Scenes of action would be exhilarating if what surrounded them was not so depressing. Cinema can both act as a form of escapism and the exact opposite. Use exaggeration to bring you further to reality. Forget about any artificiality, stare at this social order and try to ignore its ugliness. Emotions cannot exist, there can be no happiness, sadness, love or fear. There can only be one desire, to be consumed by the flames. To be purged of difficulties, of hardships, to clear one’s mind. Yet in their search to burn all insincerities, they have found themselves more lost, further out of touch. They let themselves be consumed, their bodies purged as well as their minds. Pain ensues, agony. This is not simple teen angst, but victims of a cruel society. There may be reasons, but are no excuses. This school is not a place for education, but a preparation to face a tyrannical government. The title is a call to arms, these schools need to burn. To be cleansed, to be purged. This is important cinema, and its exhilarating liveliness and unrelenting pessimism all serves a purpose. To engage, to lure the audience in with promises of nothing but entertainment, but gives them much more. Absolutely Breathtaking.

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