By The Time It Gets Dark
[2016 Thailand Movie]
Arak Amornsupasiri, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Achtara Suwan
In 1970, She was student activist, a waitress who keeps changing her job, now a film director. All lives loosely connected to each others.
Thailand could yet be the birthplace for a new kind of cinema: Buddhist supernatural realism. This fascinating, enigmatic feature from 41-year-old Thai film-maker Anocha Suwichakornpong is obviously comparable to the work of Thailand’s much-garlanded Cannes Palme d’Or-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. She has something of his quietism and transcendentalism, the same feeling for the mysteries of the northern forests and the alternative spiritual realities that can make themselves plain in a simple setting. But she has a distinctive postmodern angularity and quirk; Suwichakornpong keeps you off balance with shroom-fuelled fantasy and Lynchian departures.
On the surface, it is a movie within a movie about a notorious military massacre of student protesters in Bangkok in 1976. We see glimpses of this, followed by a scene showing a film director, Ann (Visra Vichit-Vadakan), welcoming the now middle-aged former protester Taew (Rassami Paoluengton) to the pleasant vacation hotel where she plans to conduct interviews on which she will base a script. The intercut protest scenes are perhaps how the resulting film pans out, or how Ann imagines it, or how Taew remembers it. But then we get digressive scenes showing Peter (Arak Amornsupasiri), the main actor, and his celebrity life unfolding in parallel. We see Ann – dissatisfied with her own glib and superficial treatment of history – diarising to camera about how as a child she could move objects with telekinesis. We see her hallucinating in the forest, and we see the waitress who served them coffee and breakfast recurring as different characters. It is an engrossingly strange, confident leap down the conceptual rabbit hole, and a very accomplished piece of film-making.