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.


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