- Directed Sivaroj Kongsakul
- Starring Wanlop Rungkumjad, Namfon Udomlertlak, Prapas Amnuay, Pattruporn Jaturanrasamee
- Screened as the opening film of the 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok, November 5, 2010
- Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5
Rural romance never goes out of style. It just fades away.
At least that's how it works in Eternity (ที่รัก, Tee Rak), a gentle, deeply spiritual and heartfelt romantic drama by Thai indie filmmaker Sivaroj Kongsakul.
For his debut feature, Sivaroj lays bare his personal reflections on the death of his father, who passed away when the filmmaker was still a boy.
The autobiographical tale is told in three segments, with the ghost dad a phantom motorcyclist, traversing the fields and streams of his youth, and haunting his boyhood home, a sad spirit among the ruins.
The most tender segment is the middle, in which a younger version of the man is courting his wife-to-be, showing her all the sights of the farm, and skylarking around in the river as he catches a duck for dinner.
It's these scenes that make Tee Rak feel like an old film, evocative of the classics of Thai cinema, like Cherd Songsri's romances, like Plae Kao (The Scar) perhaps.
These scenes are filled with nature, with the piping of a kawee bird or the wind in the trees providing the soundtrack.
There is much hope and optimism, as the man talks of changing jobs from selling insurance to working for the electric company. The woman doesn't want to be a schoolteacher any longer, she'd rather be a secretary, but her husband-to-be says she won't have to work long.
But it's a fleeting feeling.
A visit to a Chinese cemetery darkens the outlook, and the people who go in are different coming out.
As each mood changes, there is a classic Thai song, a haunting refrain, sung a capella or with just a guitar backing.
The final segment has the widowed schoolteacher and mother of two looking sad and exhausted. She's worried about a son who comes home from school late with cigarette butts in his pockets and wants to go off to study art in Bangkok.
And how would dinner be different if Dad were still around?
She has her schoolchildren read poet Suntorn Phu's (สุนทรภู่) epic Phra Apaimanee, a sensuous passage about reincarnation, resurrection and eternal life. Here's a bit:
If the earth itself may face demise
My love will remain unwavering
If I am reborn of this earth
My I recognize our love unchanged.
And it makes her want to cry, right there in the classroom.
And it might even make you cry, if you're open to that sort of thing.
What's beautiful about this Eternity – a completely different kind of film from the commercial Eternity (Chua Fai Din Salai, ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย) that hit Thai multiplexes this summer – is that it's emotional without the usual overwrought melodrama.
The slow pace and quietness puts Tee Rak firmly in the arthouse camp. Another art-film hallmark is that the camera is usually kept very far away, with the characters sometimes being tiny dots in the middle of the shot. It's lensed by Umpornpol Yugala, who also produced with Aditya Assarat and Soros Sukhum of Pop Pictures.
It's not a movie for everyone (what movie is?). Even film-festival die-hards have admitted difficulty keeping their eyes open.
But for folks who can stick with it, perhaps armed with knowledge of the synopsis beforehand, I think they'll come away feeling touched, in a good way.
- WFFBKK 2010 festival notes: Nuri Bilge Ceylan given the Lotus Award
- PIFF 2010 notes: Green for White Room, Aditya returns early, market talk and AFA
- PIFF 2010: Great showcase for Asian and Thai cinema
- World Film Festival of Bangkok 2010: Eternity, Insects among premieres
- PIFF 2010: Eternity 'among early front-runners'
- PIFF 2010: Eternity in New Currents competition; also Red Eagle, Hi-So and The Little Comedian
- Eternity, Departure Day receive Asian Cinema Funds
- Hi-So, Eternity, Baby Arabia among projects added to Strong Thailand fund
- Three Thai indie projects selected by Hubert Bals