Nymph, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's look at a marriage that falls apart when the couple goes camping in the woods and the husband leaves his cheating wife for a mysterious tree, has played twice already at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was among the Day 1 films, played again on Saturday and plenty of reviews have rolled in, with much musing about the "magical realism" of it all.
Opinions are mixed, perhaps maybe an even split between viewers who are left puzzled or didn't like what's going on and those who kind dug it.
One of the first to post a review, and in the "dug it" camp, is TIFF die-hard Movie Moxie. She discusses Nymph in her Day 1 videolog and writes about it in her Day 1 roundup. Having Pen-ek on hand to introduced the film helped her appreciate it:
The screening of Nymph tonight was introduced by directer Pen-ek Ratanaruang who provided the following context for the audience: Almost every Thai person grows up hearing a legend/story that becomes a belief that the trees in the forest have female spirits living in them. So, when you go into the forest that you have to respect the trees and nature.
This is very important to know going into the film, and it lead me to ponder what kind of film Nymph is ...
Next up was Kurt Halfyard's review for Twitch/Row Three. Starting off by noting the coincidental similiarities between Nymph and Lars Van Trier's Antichrist (which premiered at Cannes at the same time Pen-ek's film did and is also in Toronto), Kurt sums up:
The movie requires a fair bit of patience, and Pen-ek Ratanaruang makes a few errors of judgement, that if we stare at something long enough it will start to acquire meaning (I imagine that the 15 minutes longer Cannes cut of the film is much more restless experience) but in the end the film comes together quite solidly in the thematic department. Those who enjoyed Antti-Jussi Annila’s Sauna and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Chrisma (also using a tree as a potent metaphor) should find a lot chew on in Nymph.
I've been enjoying the comments at Twitch about Nymph.
Another review, this from the Daily Film Dose:
In a film festival like this there’s a point when we have to make a decision to stay or leave a film, especially when there’s 2 or 3 other films you could be seeing. The spirit of the forest, whether that’s Nymph or not, compels you to stay, the same spirit which entrances Nop slowly seeps into the audience. Ratanaruang does it all with sound, it’s a remarkable and complex design, echoing that Malick’s moodiness and David Lynch/Alan Splet’s horrific noises. The sounds of the jungle merge with the artificial ambient music and other weird ingredients, which blankets the entire film.
Other viewers weren't taken in by the moody atmosphere. Film Stage was "left numb" and though Van Trier was better. "Would have been better as a short," summed up Phil. "Murky picture," tweeted Johnny Vong. And other Twitterer, none other than Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, says, "Very Fortissimo style, but a little disappointing."
Well, there will be more opportunities for film festival-goers and critics to catch Nymph. It has several more festival appearance lined up, including Helsinki (alongside Ong-Bak 2), Bangkok next week, and then Vancouver and London.
In Toronto, Nymph is playing a third time, on Friday, September 18.
(Photo of Pen-ek and TIFF programmer Raymond Phathanavirangoon via Movie Moxie)