- Directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang
- Starring Wanida Terthanaporn, Nopachai Jayanama, Chamanan Wanwinwet, Pornthip Papanai
- Released in Thai cinemas on July 1, 2009
- Rating: 4/5
Lace up your hiking boots, set up your tent and roll out your sleeping bag. It’s time to go camping with director Pen-ek Ratanaruang and his latest movie, Nang Mai (นางไม้, English title: Nymph).
A romantic drama, ghost story and nature show combine in this thriller about a marriage that’s lost in a thicket of dysfunction.
Floating like a moth, the camera pierces the impenetrable forest in vivid detail, with every sinuous root and knotted branch becoming a lead character. The actors rightly keep their portrayals subtle. No one can compete with Mother Nature.
Pen-ek spins a taut, thrilling tale that begins with the long-ago rape of a young woman. Her screams fade, and nothing’s heard but the burbling stream and the drone of forest critters.
And then the woman’s two assailants are floating dead in the water.
In modern Bangkok, a young couple endure a troubled marriage. Whatever spark Nop and May (Wanida “Gybzy” Termthanaporn and Nopachai “Peter” Jayanama) felt when they met has long since been snuffed out.
Office worker May is having an affair with her boss Korn (Chamanan Wanwinwet). Nop, a nerdy photographer, seems focused only on his work. They barely talk to one another, and when Nop does try to get intimate he’s rebuffed.
They decide on a romantic camping trip, but the divide remains. Headache-prone May stays in the tent with her cellphone and laptop while Nop wanders the woods, photographing flora.
He’s drawn to one particular tree that seems be comprised of orgiastically intertwining limbs. He caresses the tree and puts his face in a crevice. Then he goes missing. Calls to Nop’s phone are answered, but only by the sound of heavy breathing.
May consults a pair of dryly comic forest rangers and is given an amulet necklace, but it’s no use. A mysterious figure – the nang mai or tree spirit herself (none other than Porntip Papanai) – drags May out of her tent and leaves her to sleep the night away out in the open.
Distraught, May heads back to the city and into the eager arms of Korn. Then Nop shows up. Seemingly reborn, he’s earthier and sensuous. And thirsty – he drinks a lot of water.
But then he disappears again – or was he really there? – and May seems different. Korn is alarmed. And they return to the forest. Will you dare to go with them?
Like the forest, Nymph is mysterious and foreboding. But like an ancient tree, it's worth looking at, pondering and sitting under. Strengths include the uniformly strong, understated and naturalistic performances from a fine, brave cast; a complementary subtle and creepy sound design by Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr and Koichi Shimizu and stunning camera work headed by cinematographer Charnkit Chamnivikaipong.
For the Thailand general release, Pen-ek re-edited the film, which was still in rough form when it was rushed to the Cannes Film Festival.
This new 90-minute "Director's Cut" is said to be his definitive version and will be the one that is shipped out to future film festivals and eventually to DVD.
Finally, a bit of a tearful note as the end credits roll: The film is dedicated to Wouter Barendrecht, Pen-ek's friend and producer at Fortissimo Films, who died in Bangkok on April 5, 2009. He was to have seen a rough edit of Nymph.
- Meet Gybzy, Pen-ek's new muse
- More on Pen-ek and art films
- Pen-ek and the backlash against art films
- Thai trailer for the Thai version of Pen-ek's Nymph
- Praise for Nymph
- Cannes '09: More reviews for Nymph
- Cannes '09: Festival notes part 5
- Website, and another new Thai poster for Nymph
- Too much information about Nymph
- Thai teaser poster, synopsis for Pen-ek's Nymph
- Pen-ek's Nymph (Nang Mai) chosen for Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes Film Festival
- International sales trailer for Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nymph
- In memoriam: Wouter Barendrecht
- Nymph for Cannes?
- On the trail of Pen-ek and his elusive Nymph
- Pen-ek's next film is Nymph
- Pen-ek: 'I'm going into the jungle'
(Cross-published at Daily Xpress)