Sunday, August 31, 2008

TROPICAL MALADY (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005, Thailand) Schism (noun) 1: Division, Separation also Discord, Disharmony. Tropical Malady seems like two separate, disharmonious tales in one film with a clear-cut fade-to-black delineation between the two halves. The first half is a modest romance between two young men; Keng is a soldier and Tong a rustic country-boy. They story evolves slowly as the two grow together emotionally as Tong playfully rebuffs all romantic advances from his would-be lover. It is obvious that Keng falls in love but it is not meant to be requited: this half ends with Tong wandering off into the dark jungle after an erotic kiss (much like a cat cleaning the paws of its mate). The second half finds the soldier Keng assigned to a rural village in search of a rogue jungle-cat that has been killing livestock. We are told a legend by a narrator (with drawings) about a shaman who could transform himself into animals and he hunted those lost in the jungle. And here the film becomes fractured and surrealistic. Is the shaman-ghost really Tong? What happens to Keng in the dark jungle...does he die or lose his mind? Is he consumed and transformed by the creature? Does he discover his lost love? Or is it all a dream? Maybe the second half is a metaphor about love and the consuming desire of obsession. There is very little dialogue as the jungle itself becomes a character; dangerous, lush, and unforgiving. A bewildering and elegant film that should not be missed. (B)

No comments: