I can’t remember exactly when the last time I watched a Thai film in theatre was. If my writings accurately tracked my film-watching history, the last Thai film I saw before yesterday would be Love, Not Yet, back in September 2011.
The film I watched yesterday was Home: Khwam Rak, Khwam Suk, Khwam Song Cham (lit. Home: Love, Happiness, Memory). It is the latest feature film by Chookiat “Ma-Deaw” Sakveerakul, the director of The Love of Siam. I didn’t really pay attention to Home’s promotional media, couldn’t even remember seeing the trailer. Yet, I got the theme that it wouldn’t be just another featherweight teen love film. The most important driving factor, though, was the fact that it was Chookiat’s film. Apart from The Love of Siam, his only other work I saw was 4 Romances (Fan Wan Ai Chup), in which he directed a short film in the four-short-film project. I don’t watch horror films, so the rest of his works are pretty much ruled out for me. Still, I had a feeling that Chookiat’s film would go well with my taste.
Well, I wasn’t really wrong. It was worth my time. I’m still not sure if it would have a chance to go into the list of my all-time favourites, but at least I feel it’s “about right”.
Home is a collection of three lightly tied together stories. For me, the second story, with widowed Auntie Chan, is like the core piece of the story, like a nucleus with two branches. That story best represents Home. Although the films are in different style, I found that the second story of Home reminded me of Apichatpong’s Uncle Boonmee. (Usually my “reminded me of” does not usually mean “related”. I have puzzled someone by saying that The Lord’s of the Ring‘s music reminded me of Holst’s Jupiter symphony.)
Even though the theme of Home is usually presented as love, the commonality between its three stories is probably the solitude, probably not literally, but in a way that the characters seem to just float. The auntie loses her husband, and tries to cope with it. One boy does not really have friend in his school life, the other moves from places to places, fearing that no one will remember him. The bride-to-be has the wedding jitters, and is uncertain about what she wants. Overall, I don’t feel Home is a tear-jerker like many people talk about (on forums, YouTube, etc.). I feel heavy-hearted, but at the same time floated. Not floated in a way that it has a light story, but floated in the realm of spirituality, which is the main theme of Home‘s second story.
If there was something I didn’t like much about Home, it probably would be the little feeling like being “lured” in the first and the last stories, like when it felt that Leng, the groom-to-be, could either go good or go bad, when it was quite obvious (at least in my opinion) that it would end well. (Probably a sick shock if it went the other way, though.) Also, spirituality isn’t really my thing, although it is really beautifully presented.
Usually I don’t really remember directors and actors, but this is the few times I seem to notice something about Ma-deaw’s Home and The Love of Siam. Home uses a lot of music to build the tone of the scenes. This is very obvious, and at some point I would feel that it was too much. The fact that the music was quite good make it not so annoying.
Also, I usually don’t pay attention to films’ photography, but I really notice the light and colour of Home. The light, direction, colour, and depth of field in Home resemble the style in modern still photography. I don’t know enough about these technical aspects, but there is a certain feeling that exist in pop style in the age of digital photography which differs from the preceding era. If I remember correctly, the light and colour style was also in The Love of Siam.
Similar to Sinjai’s fantastic performance, Penpak Sirikul’s role as Auntie Chan is solidly remarkable. The first story should also be credited for basically just showing two boys having conversation, a pretty good one, while wandering around the empty school campus. That, for full half an hour, is pretty daring for a major Thai studio production, although not as daring as disguising tough family drama/coming-of-age homosexuality as a straight teen romance.
The tie between the second and the third doesn’t give anything much, but when character from the first story finally ties into the conclusion of the wedding, which reveals how it is also related to the second story, it is just shockingly sad. Beautifully sad.
Another good point of interest is that, as the film set fully in Chiang Mai province, the Northern Thai dialectis used dominantly in the second and third stories. I feel that the Northern dialect has been a bit under-represented in Thai mainstream cinema, especially when compared to Isan. The use of Southern dialect to portray the contrast is also great. (Conversations in the Northern dialect is subtitled in central Thai.)
By the way, how many Ma-deaw’s films will Witwisit (Pitch) appear on?