Color, 2009, 78m.
Directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong
Starring Phakpoom Surapongsanuruk, Arkanae Cherkam, Paramej Noiam, Arkaney Cherkam, Anchana Ponpitakthepkij
Second Run (DVD) (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) / DD5.1
A fascinating debut film for Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong could best be described as a domestic drama by way of a cosmic psychedelic freakout before Terrence Malick and Gaspar Noé were trying the same tricks. The plot itself is another variation on the paralyzed patient dealing with those around him scenario explored in some better-known films like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but the approach here is definitely something different. This time the story tension arises between paralyzed young Ake (Surapongsanuruk), whose condition resulted from an accident never quite specified, and male nurse Pun (Cherkam), a struggling thwarted writer who's not exactly all warm and fuzzy. Their daily routines form most of their relationship until eventually they start form something of a bond, while Ake's professor father (Noiam) prefers to stay hands off. However, it all pays off with a galactic fantasy/flashback sequence and a graphic bit of karmic symbolism that vaults this well into the outer reaches of art film territory.
Something of a film festival hit favorite upon its initial release, Mundane History is a challenging but auspicious feature film inauguration for the female director, who interestingly focuses almost entirely on men throughout the running time. (A brief bathtub scene that earns the BBFC's 15 rating for "one scene of strong sexual activity" is probably the most surprising in this context, too.) It's definitely not the kind of film one wanders into blindly, but for those who are game it offers both a satisfying character drama and an eye-popping climax that should have home theater owners grinning very happily.
Second Run's DVD release in the UK is region free and boasts a director-approved HD transfer, which looks very good throughout (as you'd expect given the vintage of the film) and, presumably, would be an improvement over the only previous English-friendly release from Holland. The soundtrack is presented in both the theatrical 2.0 stereo mix and a 5.1 option, though the former sounds a little more authentic and satisfying overall.
Supplements kick off with a 14-minute interview with the director, recorded for this release in 2012. She talks about conceiving the look of the film as well as the flow of the story, including an influential parable involving a dying son and a bird. She also discusses its restrictive rating in Thailand and some of the other symbolism including the soundtrack, some of which might have viewers going back right away for a second look. The next video extra on the disc is the 16-minute "Graceland," the director's only bona fide short film to date; a stylish bit of nocturnal pop, it opens with a kitschy Bengali cover of "Dancing in the Moonlight" as a couple's night drive takes a moody turn by the side of the road, spilling over into the next morning and, of course, a little dose of Elvis impersonation. Finally the DVD rounds out with the theatrical trailers, while the liner notes booklet by Carmen Gray delve further into the themes and pivotal scenes within the film. A brief director's statement also reinforces her intention to create an allegory about modern Thailand couched within questions about how to define history on a day-to-day level. Another excellent release from Second Run, who probably couldn't put out an uninteresting title if they tried.