It is a role most local actresses would shy away from but newcomer Angeline Yap has taken the plunge and appears topless in a thriller that will be screened at the Singapore International Film Festival later this month.
As femme fatale Li Er in the Mandarin thriller Lang Tong (Cantonese for “nice soup”), she is seen topless and having sex with her older sister’s lover, the womanising con man Zack (William Lawandi). She also convinces him to help murder her sibling Li Ling (Vivienne Tseng), an alluring woman who makes a great pork rib soup.
The trailer which includes a scene of a man removing a pair of panties from a topless female body seen from the neck down, is already steaming up computer and mobile-phone screens.
The film makes its world premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival on Dec 13.
Yap, 27, tells Life! she stripped for the camera because the nudity was integral to the plot.
She says: “It was used to tell a story and to convey a message more clearly. To me, it’s a form of art. I don’t see it as sleazy.
“If it’s video porn or mostly about sex with no character to the story, I won’t take it up.”
She adds that she took on the role to challenge herself and do something out of the norm.
“I wanted to change people’s mindset about nudity being taboo. I feel that Singapore movies are too normal and too safe.”
Normal and safe is what director, producer and co-writer Sam Loh, 46, wanted to throw out of the window.
Lang Tong is his take on the twisted thriller and his references include Takashi Miike’s nightmare-inducing Audition (1999) and Fruit Chan’s macabre Dumplings (2004).
In Audition, a young woman subjects her widower suitor to terrifying torture, and in Dumplings, the secret to eternal youth involves human foetuses.
Loh was out to push the boundaries on sex and violence and says: “If not, then everything would be the status quo all the time.”
The film has been rated R21 with no cuts.
Female frontal nudity was previously seen in the short film Hush (2012) while Royston Tan’s 15 (2003) and Kan Lume’s Solos (2007), among others, had featured male frontal nudity.
Loh has more than 15 years of film and television directing experience and his credits include crime drama Code Of Law (2012) for Channel 5 and children’s dramas for Channel 8.
He has made one other film, Outsiders (2004), about young dysfunctional Singaporeans. It was not shown in Singapore, but screened at festivals such as the Asian Film Festival in Rome.
He says: “The TV climate is very conservative so for my personal films, I want to do more self-expression, like tackling darker subjects which I can’t do on TV.”
Loh filmed “the most difficult” steamy scenes on the first day of shooting.
He says: “When it comes to shooting these scenes, the actors may appear very awkward and don’t know where to put their hands and you have to iron those things out before you shoot. After a while, it’s like work, you rehearse and block out the action.”
The $500,000 film was shot over two weeks in April in a flat in Tiong Bahru.
For Yap, it helped that she had met Lawandi, an Indonesian-Chinese actor based in Singapore, from a previous indie film project, 1400.
Add the rehearsals with Loh and the few occasions they met to talk about the movie and she declares that shooting the sexy stuff “was rather smooth and wasn’t that awkward”.
Apart from the actors, only the director, the cameraman and a female make-up artist “who took care of me” were present for the shooting of the sex scenes. Still, Lawandi, 38, says with a laugh that they were “really awkward”.
But he adds: “It’s more about the facial expressions and the movements and how the camera captured them. Of course, there was a lot of discussion about how to do it and where to do it.”
So Yap was prepared for him to cup her breasts and kiss her body. “It’s not like I was caught unprepared.”
She makes it clear though: “We are not having sex. It’s just pretending, acting.”
In fact, she says they did not kiss on the mouth. She also donned skin-coloured panties for protection.
Asked if she is prepared for all the attention and scrutiny the role will bring and she says: “I guess I’m ready. There may be criticism and unkind remarks but I don’t need to please everyone. If it’s just an unkind remark, I’ll just ignore it.”
When she first landed the role, she kept it from her parents.
She says evenly: “This is my choice and I’m already an adult. Maybe I should have told them, but I didn’t want them to worry so much. I feel that this is my life and my body.”
Yap, who is single, declines to provide more details about her family and adds: “I hope the media will not pull them in and say things such as them not raising me properly.”
The model-actress has a degree in communications and new media from the National University of Singapore and has taken part in beauty pageants, including Miss Bikini Universe Singapore 2014 and Miss World Singapore 2014, where she emerged third runner-up.
Her acting credits include the yet-to- be-released indie drama 1400, which comprises three interwoven tales of characters searching for love in a hotel. She plays the role of Moon, a hairstylist by day and a prostitute by night.
She has appeared in small roles on TV shows, including the current Channel 8 sitcom 118 and Crimewatch as a victim of sextortion.
Yap hopes that Lang Tong will open more doors for her. But she is not keen to strip for the camera again.
She says: “I don’t want people to stereotype and typecast me. I want to try a variety of roles.”
Later on, she adds though: “Unless it’s a very big role, a very good script or a very famous director, then I’ll consider.”