Ahead of August 21 Thai release of The Coffin, the Thai website (www.longtortai.com) has gone live and has the international trailer embedded.
The story is based on a true Thai ritual called non loeng sadorcro (literally "lie in coffin, get rid of bad luck"), in which adherents sleep in coffins in hopes of changing their bad karma.
The film features a Pan-Asian ensemble cast that includes Ananda Everingham and Hong Kong actress Karen Mok. Ananda portrays a claustrophic architect whose Japanese fiancee (Aki Shibuya) is dying of brain cancer, while Mok's character, a nutritionist from Hong Kong, has been diagnosed with cancer one week before her wedding. The storylines intertwine as the two main characters take part in the morbid ritual.
Malaysian journalist Philip Golingai, Bangkok-based reporter for The Star newspaper in Kuala Lumpur, has written an article about The Coffin, based largely on his watching that freaky trailer. He interviewed writer-director Ekachai Uekrongtham.
It is a story that I was keen to tell as it deals with one of my greatest fears – death. Not so much my death but the death of my loved ones,” explained Ekachai, who also directed Beautiful Boxer.
His intrigue with the ritual began three years ago when he read an article in a Thai newspaper about thousands of people attending a death ritual for the living.
“How was it possible that you have to go so ‘near’ to death in order to prolong your life? It seems like a contradiction,” he said, adding that at that time he also had difficulties in dealing with his father’s death.
The interview goes on to explain how the ritual evolved from the practice of purchasing coffins to donate to the poor -- a form of merit-making.
Ekachai says he spoke to many of the adherents.
Many participants felt as if they were reborn after the ritual – with all their bad karma buried behind them,” Ekachai said. “Some claimed that the ritual helped fool the spirits that they’re already dead so they could start their new lives afresh like newborns.”
In his interviews with believers, Ekachai said some told him that they met the spirit of their dead loved ones while they were lying in the coffin. “They told me that they made a connection with the dead,” he said.
The scriptwriter also went through the archives of a Thai TV station, watching a documentary of a man – with a serious heart problem – who even his doctor gave up on his chances for recovery.
“The man claimed after going through the ritual he recovered gradually. And since then he performed the ritual annually,” he added.
The Coffin has already opened in South Korea, where it started playing on July 10. I'd like to know how it's been doing, but am having trouble locating any box-office records for South Korea, since a couple of the usual sources have not been updated in several weeks.