Pen-ek Ratanaruang has kept his new film Nymph under wraps for as long as possible, playing it close to his chest and letting few details about it leak out to the international press -- maybe a cryptic description of the plot, a few photos to shut people up and a denial/non-denial or two that his movie is a horror film.
But no longer. Nymph (Nang Mai) is premiering at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, competing in the Un Certain Regard program, which has elevated interest in his film to such a level that nobody can hold back.
So finally there's a teaser poster from Five Star Production promoting the film's July 2 release in Thailand, which I saw on Deknang. And there's an English-language synopsis at the Fortissmo Films website. I only halfway read it and wish I hadn't, so proceed with caution. Some films are better with an air of mystery about them.
A long time ago in an unnamed forest an unfortunate young woman fell prey to two men. Soon after, the lifeless bodies of the two attackers were found floating down the stream nearby. No one knew what happened to the woman, or who or what had saved her life.
May is a city woman who has everything she could ask for. Things are looking stellar: her career is on the rise and her long-time husband, Nop, showers love and attention on her. But fate or desire play tricks on the couple who watches their lives drift by without much thought or reflection, and May starts an affair with Korn, himself a married man.
One day Nop, a professional photographer, is assigned to take a trip into the forest to film its wildlife. He decides to bring his wife along. But the journey slowly reveals how the invisible weight of their urban lifestyle haunts them like a spectre, since May insists on behaving as if she were still in the city. Her sole concerns are her laptop and her phone, and instead of working from the office she now works from the tent in the middle of the jungle.
Nop, meanwhile, treks into the forest to take pictures of wild deer and forgotten cobwebs, and along the way he stumbles into a sad-looking tree, a lonely, mysterious specimen deep in the heart of the jungle. The tree, it seems, is calling out to him, pulling him closer to it, and Nop finds himself spellbound. When her husband fails to return to the tent, May sets out to look for him but only finds his phone, then his sandal.
Only then does she realize how precious their marriage is, and how desperately she needs Nop’s warmth and companionship. Yet when May returns home believing she’s lost her husband, Nop returns. But the forest has changed him into someone else, perhaps forever.
The nymph or nang mai -- a known figure in Thai folklore -- is played by Porntip Papanai. She's appeared in two of Pen-ek's films before -- playing memorably saucy roles in Monrak Transistor and 2007's Ploy. She also had a small role in the recent Fireball. But she's well acquainted with playing a ghost, having portrayed none other than Mae Nak Phra Khanong in De Warrenne Pictures' Ghost of Mae Nak (she's also a regular in De Warrenne films -- watch for her in Soi Cowboy and The Elephant King).
The rest of the cast include "Gybzy" Wanida Temthanaporn from the pop group Girly Berry as May, Nopachai Jayanama (Lord Rachamanu from Naresuan 2) as her husband Nop and NBT anchorman Chamanan Wanwinwet as Korn.
I'm led to understand that Nymph will be dedicated to Pen-ek's late producer Wouter Barendrecht of Fortissimo Films, and in fact the entire official selection of this year's Cannes Film Festival is dedicated to this man who loomed large on the international festival scene.