Electric Eel Films/2009
Running Time: 78 minutes
Region Code: Region 0 (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio/ Main Feature: 1.85:1 / 16:9 anamorphic
Audio: Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 / Stereo 2.0
Subtitles: Optional English (On/Off)
The first Thai film to receive the most-restrictive 20+ rating under Thailand’s motion-picture rating system, Thai director, Anocha Suwichakornpong’s strikingly original and enthralling feature film debut, is a powerful and highly poignant exploration of developing relationships, Thailand’s social class and the ultimate value and weakness of life.
The film follows the complicated and emotional developing relationship between the irritable, bed-ridden young Ake (Phakpoom Surapongsanuruk), paralysed from the waist down by an accident we never learn of, and Pun (Arkaney Cherkam), the enduring and patient young male nurse who is appointed to take care of Ake, whilst effectively interweaving Ake’s hostile relationship with his wealthy, austere, professor father (Paramej Noiam). As we watch their relationship progress, with mutual interests slowly being unearthed, Suwichakornpong effectively contrasts their ‘mundane’, daily routine with visually stunning CGI presentations of the universe, beautifully depicting Ake’s dreams and mediations on life, death and transmigration.
Though the film utilises many abstract techniques to contrast Ake’s helpless situation, for example, the energetic, escapist soundtrack; the non-linear narrative and the prominent use of hard, jump cuts (breaking up the film’s long takes), Suwichakornpong cleverly keeps the film grounded, ensuring that the central theme of helpless confinement is never lost sight of and emphasising that the house in which Ake is trapped ultimately becomes a central character of the piece. Now i’m not sure if this next point was intentional, but I liked how the film effectively makes use of Ake’s pet turtle, cleverly incorporating shots of the enclosed pet, constantly attempting to swim out of the tank, to mirror Ake’s caged situation.
The film is perfectly cast and draws out beautifully achieved performances from Surapongsanuruk, Cherkam, Noiam, Anchana Ponpitakthepkij as Somjai and Karuna Looktumthong as Kaew.
This is a very strong debut for a feature film, and it is clear that Suwichakornpong has a very distinctive, individual voice, as she makes strong use of some very inventive and refreshing techniques to effectively bring this simple, ‘mundane’ story to life. However, as this is her debut feature film, there are times when it does feel like she is trying to incorporate slightly too much into the film and leave a unique mark; showcasing all her artistic talents, taking some brave, controversial risks and ultimately shocking the audience.
Of course being inventive and taking risks is by no means a bad thing, indeed it is very welcome, but it does clearly justify the decision to award the film a 20+ rating, as we are presented with full-frontal male nudity and a fairy long depiction of an unsuccessful attempt at masturbation, with the film culminating with a very graphic depiction of a Caesarean section birth. The film is overall very rewarding, it has a powerful message to convey and it deserves to be seen, but incorporating these controversial elements into the piece does restrict the accessibility of the film and the overall appeal to a wider, newer audience.
Second Run’s wonderful release presents viewers with a new High Definition transfer of the film, approved by the director, delivering sharp, crisp details and textures, beautifully rendered colours and tones and striking overall visuals, perfectly highlighting Suwichakornpong’s authentic, artistic, yet subtle staging and the sumptuous cinematography of Ming Kai Leung. This release presents viewers with the choice between the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track and the 2.0 stereo mix, and while both offer beautifully crisp, well-realised audio and an effective delivery of the electronic, energetic score (cleverly contrasting the slow, banal tone of the film), the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is definitely the recommended choice for the full, immersive experience.
Newly filmed, exclusive interview with director Anocha Suwichakornpong.
Graceland (2006): Anocha Suwichakornpong’s award-winning short film.
Booklet featuring a new essay by arts journalist and film critic Carmen Gray.
New and improved English subtitle translation.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound option.
Mundane History is an ambitious, rewarding and beautifully crafted piece of cinema, now delivered in this fantastic and highly recommended new DVD release from the ever-impressive Second Run.
Release date: 22 October 2012
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