26 March 2008

Soak ชุ่ม

Soak is a new short film by Thunska Pansittivorakul, who has made a series of controversial short films for the past eight years. Of course, you can't watch Thunska's films in mainstream cinema as they are mainly shown in film festivals. Soak features in the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival (BEFF 5) at Esplanade only once and it's this evening.

I don't know how to define it -- it can be considered a long short film or a short long film, dependent on from which perspective one prefers to judge. It's highly autobiographical as it's based on Thunska's personal past with his ex-lover. On the surface, it may resemble a home video showing two men going to the beach and enjoying their time together. But on a deeper level, Soak effectively conveys such feelings as impossible desire, anxious anticipation, and uncertainty. What's interesting about all this is that Thunska doesn't use much dialogue to directly convey these feelings, but let the action and the interaction, at times very subtle and complex, between the two actors (one of which is the director himself) tell the story.

The scene that I like is the one whereby the two of them are on the motorbike at night time going out. It's not clear at first where they're heading but we could sense the quiet longing in this scene where the director doesn't want to end. Thunska deliberately uses real-time narration in this scene so some people may feel puzzled watching these two guys on the motorbike for like twenty minutes barely talking together. They end up not knowing where to go either, but decide just to go to a Seven-Eleven. The journey here is more important than the destination. In the same way, whether love is requited or not in this film is not as important as the process -- the tumultous feelings of anxiety and anticipation. Most people who have been in love must've known these, especially when they're guessing whether their loved one will reciprocate or not.

However, as in most Thunska's films you are likely to find that "happy ending" is impossible. Contemporary lifestyle makes intimacy embarrassing and impossible, if not already obsolete. Even though the two actors in Soak spend time together, their relationship seems strained and fragile. One is always on the wait for the other's mercy. One is always more sensitive than the other. The fact that the two protagonists are men complicates the matter as it is widely known that gay people generally are more sophisticated and skeptical of "true love", thereby establishing a thick layer of reservation for fear of heartbreak. Taking this line of thought, I think Soak is a very sad film, another manifestation that we humans are born to be individual and can never be truely related to others around us. Alienation thus stays close and love (in the sense of spiritual intimacy) just flips away.


10 March 2008

The Mist มฤตยูหมอกกินมนุษย์

I didn't know much about this film but I heard that there were people talking about it in the Pantip webboard, especially about its ending. So today we headed to Esplanade to watch it, hoping to see what all the fuss was all about and I was not disappointed.

A lot of people would've thought that it's a plain monster film, but halfway through I started to feel that there's definitely something more to it than that. For me, The Mist is a cross between H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Beneath the surface of the monster thriller lies Stephen King's exploration of human nature and anxiety especially when they are scared of the unknown.

Because of this reason, I found myself deeply engrossed with the film, but the feeling was more of depression than excitement. I don't mean that I was saddened because King didn't do justice to what he promised to deliver. Far from that, the dialogue and the plot were so well-crafted that I was led to believe that we humans are capable of a lot of atrocious acts that can turn us against one another or even make us kill one another without any trace of remorse. In the film, King touches on such sensitive issues as religion, faith, and human frailty in the face of the unknown. The mist functions like darkness, serving as an apt setting that contributes to uneasiness and fear. In this atmosphere of uncertainty, we humans are capable of everything, both good and bad, only for the sake of self-preservation.

I won't give away the ending. Suffice to say that it's also an important turn that drives home the existential questions of the film -- whether God exists and whether we are so infinitesimal compared to Him.