Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: Memory

  • Directed by Torpong Tunkamhang
  • Starring Mai Charoenpura, Ananda Mathew Everingham
  • Released in Thailand cinemas on May 15, 2008
  • Rating: 3/5

Krit (Ananda Everingham) is a psychiatrist working with the criminally insane in a Chiang Mai hospital. But perhaps he should see a shrink himself. Quiet and brooding, he stops off at a bar for a stiff one before dragging himself back to his apartment, late at night. His wife is sleeping in front of a TV that is broadcasting nothing but static. Krit doesn't even acknowledge she exists. She is dead to him. He takes a pill and swallows it with another slug of whisky.

Krit's friend, a policeman, sees that Krit is troubled, so he puts Krit on a new case -- screams of a child coming from a home, and the child has bruises on her arms. The kid and her mother are brought into Krit's office, but the kid won't talk. She's been seeing the ghost of a bloodied boy in the mirror, and unseen forces drag her across the floor. The mother, Ing-orn (Mai Charoenpura) is no help either. She doesn't want people thinking she and her kid are crazy, doesn't like the attention from the authorities and just wants to be left alone. She storms off in a huff.

Krit won't leave the case alone, and he goes to visit Ing-org and the girl Prae. The single mum and her daughter have moved to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. They are living in a house that's all dark wood, where all the doors creak and a four-poster bed has gauzy drapes that flap in an unexplained wind. The atmosphere, aided by a smoky soundtrack, is spooky. And there's always a figure lurking, behind a curtain, in a mirror or behind some frosted glass. Phrae is so scared, she can't speak.

Ing-orn eventually softens to Krit's presence, and Krit, dissatisfied with his marriage, finds himself attracted to the mature, womanly charms of Ing-orn. The camera lingers over Mai's cleavage, and she overpowers Krit with her pent-up passion. Still, Krit is unable to get close to Phrae and find out why she is so disturbed. Perhaps the child's disturbance is a result of Ing-orn's own mental trauma, which she is trying desperately to forget. But that is an aspect of Ing-orn's life that is closed to him.

Memory makes good use of the two lead actors' strengths, which can also be weaknesses if not used properly. Ananda is just as vulnerable and sympathetic as ever, channelling his photographer character from Shutter. Mae, who was critically hailed for her role as the villainous Lady Sudachan in Suriyothai, has that screen-chewing monster lurking beneath the surface. Yet for the first half of the film, she is tender and relaxed in relationship with her child -- until things start to unravel. Then the shocking past she is running from is revealed, and there's a twist that is right up there with the most classic of cinema's twists.

Memory could be prime material for a Hollywood remake, and the original might do well, too, given the international market's appetite for Thai horror and suspense.

There are fun moments that seem to be testing the Thai censors -- a throat cut with a straight razor that is alluded to in the film's trailers is right out of Sweeney Todd, which was pixellated for its theatrical run in Thailand. And for a doctor, Ananda's Krit just can't lay off the sauce. The only difference between him and the doctors in the censored Syndromes and a Century is that Krit does his drinking outside the hospital, though he's still on duty.

The film was shot in Chiang Mai, though since most of the action is confined to Ing-orn's creaky house or the hospital corridors, you'd hardly know it. Not until the end does it become apparent that the film is set someplace else in Thailand besides Bangkok. Still, the change of pace had a profound effect on Ananda -- he wants to move there.

See also:
(Cross-published at The Nation Weblog)

1 comment:

  1. Memory was released in Singapore and Malayasia as Ghost House. It's out on DVD.


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