« Coffee Break | Main | Fireball »

January 26, 2010

The Spiritual World

spiritual world 1.jpg

Winyan lok kontai
Tharatap Thewsomboon - 2007
Innoform Media Region 3 DVD

Maybe I'm feeling unnecessarily defensive about some of the choices of films reviewed here, but there are factors to be considered as to why most of the Thai movies I write about are ghost stories. I've learned to enjoy this genre, probably as an outgrowth of living in Thailand for a few months, and watching Thai films that were made primarily for a Thai audience. But also, I am at the mercy of what is available to me as one who has to depend on Thai films with English subtitles. Since around 2006, Thai films have increasingly not had English subtitles on DVDs made for the local market, making some of us dependent on DVDs usually sourced from Malaysia or Hong Kong. Genre films are the most easily exportable to the pan-Asian market, as well as the international market. Recent films by Nonzee Nimibutr and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang are not available as English subtitled DVDs. Wisit Sasanatieng's most recent film was only available as an imported DVD. The only two U.S. based DVD labels that have Thai films with some small degree of consistency are Kino and Strand. A few more films are available through Magnet, primarily thanks to a deal with Tony Jaa's studio. There are Thai films I would love to see, and write about, but can not at this time. But I would hope there are those who have interest in the films I can cover for now.

Ming sees dead people. Not friendly dead people, like the ones Haley Joel Osment saw in The Sixth Sense, but troubled dead people who died violent deaths and have desiccated bodies. Ming's ability to see the dead spirits among the living has become known to those wanted her to communicate with their dearly departed relatives. Ming doesn't know why she has her special ability, only that she finds the dead to be more predictable than the living.

spiritual world 2.jpg

On a superficial level when films are prejudged based on genres and nationalities, The Spiritual World is another Thai ghost story. To enjoy this film may take the affection of this particular genre and its conventions, just as one watches a western or film noir, in part to watch how the film hews to certain elements, and also how the filmmaker chooses to make the film unique, either in the narrative, or with the visual style. The Spiritual World is hyper-styled, with digitized colors and a variety of flashy effects, as well as some snazzy camera work. Within the running time of a bit over an hour and a half, the various visual effects as an asset to the film, adding to the creepiness. There is less gore than is often seen, although based on varied reported running times, it appears that a scene involving an exposed brain that was included in the "making of" supplement was excised from this DVD version.

Ming is sought out by a young doctor, Budd, to find out the circumstances of the death of Budd's father. The story moves into an exploration of childhood trauma and repressed memories. While Ming is able to face most ghosts, it those of her own past that prove most difficult to face. Adding to the emotional toil are the asthma attacks that increase as she gets closer to the truth about the death of Budd's father.

Tharatap creates a visual correlation to the story about the truth revealed in increments. Often times the characters are seen partially visible, with doors, walls, or gates obscuring what the audience sees. The motif adds to the general anxiety because one is never entirely certain about either what is visible, or what is unseen. Certainly Tharatap had some specific expectations made of him regarding the story as the film was from Thailand's biggest studio, Sahamongkol, yet he seems to have been given freedom in the visual aspects to The Spiritual World. There is nothing that I can find in English on Tharatap Thewsomboon, nor is this film even listed with IMDb. Still, The Spiritual World is worth seeing for Tharatap's display of technical bravura, and hopefully an indication of better films to come.

spiritual world 3.jpg

The Spiritual World is available from HK Flix.

Posted by peter at January 26, 2010 12:24 AM