Saturday, September 11, 2010
Eternity premieres: Old romance; torrid, topical love story
The lavish historical romantic drama Eternity (Chuafah Din Salai, ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย) had a gala VIP and press screening on Thursday night at the Paragon Cineplex.
The movie is based on a classic 1943 romance novella, and has in turn been made into several movies, the most famous of which is Forever Yours, made in 1955 by Tawee na Bangchang ("Khru Marut") and Ratana Pestonji.
The story of an affair between the nephew of a logging baron and his uncle's attractive young wife, it's iconic for its image of the adulterous lovers, who are ordered chained together for eternity by the cuckolded husband.
The new movie takes advantage of Thailand's relatively permissive new motion-picture ratings system, to sex things up, and the movie, opening next week, is already creating quite a buzz for its nudity and old-time, epic style of filmmaking.
Lekha Shankar hit the premiere at Paragon, and she sent this report.
Story and photos by Lekha Shankar
As expected, the press-screening of Sahamongkol Film International's Eternity at the Paragon Cineplex was packed to capacity.
And as expected, most of the questions addressed to the leading cast of the film, Ananda Everingham and "Ploy" Cherman Boonyasak related to the torrid sex scenes in the film.
They remained totally unfazed. Ananda, looked dapper and sophisticated in jacket and gelled hair – he was still wearing torn jeans, true to his style – while Ploy was tall and elegant in a burnished orange outfit with a big bow at the back. They twittered and whispered together, but handled the questions with charm and humor.
As for the legendary acting coach and director of the film, "Mom Noi" ML Bhandevanob Devakul, he was proud of the sensational love-sequences in the film.
"Sex is integral to any love story, which is why it’s prominent in my film too,” said the director about his resurrection of the 1943 Thai tale Chuafah Din Salai by writer Malai Choopini, which has the lovers romping nude in forest streams, kissing in the woods and making ardent love even when they are chained together.
Eternity, along with Sahamongkol's recent release of the erotica short-film omnibus, Brown Sugar, are certainly putting the new film ratings system to the test.
Mom Noi said he decided to remake the famous Thai tale, only because it was a magnificient love-story.
“What more do you need?” laughed the director, about a film where his lovers discuss love in its myriad forms, with almost Shakespearean-like fervour.
He did not think the idea of the lovers being chained together was out-dated. To him, it was more “symbolic than physical.”
And yes, he did think that both his acting students, Ananda and Ploy, had acquitted themselves very well in the film.
Having seen the film, stars are in fact pretty outstanding. They not only look stunning (to describe Ploy as looking picture-book perfect would be an under-statement), but emote and interact with intuition and intensity. In a heroine-dominated story, Ananda comes into his own at the end of the film and steals the thunder.
Also putting in impressive performances are Teerapong Leowrakwong as the husband.
Teerapong, a photographer by profession, said that he had done some action-oriented roles, which was why this Othello-like role was challenging.
"He’s a tough task-master," he says of Mom Noi, "but only he could have made such a film!"
Indeed, Eternity is totally the work of an auteur, with its grand production design, seeping atmospherics, sweeping cinematography, trenchant script and charismatic characters.
The writing is one of the highlights of the film, and Mom Noi uniquely lifts an old-world tale and transplants it in the present times, with its digs at politics, education, marriage, society and its over-riding theme of freedom.
The 1955 version of the story called Forever Yours directed by Tawee Na Bangchang, with cinematography by Ratana Pestonji, recently purchased from the Thai Film Foundation's shop at the Bangkok ARt and Culture Centre, was charming, but stilted and melodramatic.
This new version is a feast for the eye, senses and heart.
Yupadee, the heroine recites Khalil Gibran, quotes Ibsen and urges the hero Sangmong, to “think from the heart, not the brain."
Eternity is a film made from the heart, and will certainly appeal to anyone with heart.
And what does Ananda Everingham have to say about this much talked-about film? Was it more difficult than his much-hyped forthcomin superhero film Red Eagle?
“Red Eagle was the toughest role in my career !” exclaimed the actor. "Eternity was totally different, and the highlight was working again with Mom Noi.”
(It was Mom Noi who "discovered" Ananda, directing the actor's 1997 breakthrough, Anda Kab Fahsai.)
As for director Aditya Assarat's indie drama Hi So, Ananda's third feature this year, Thailand’s top actor laughed.
"That was a cake-walk. I just had to play me.”