Monday, April 14, 2008

Two Thai people's reactions to censorship and Syndromes and a Century: Thailand's Edition

I tried to go see Syndromes and a Century: Thailand's Edition the night before last, but when I got to Paragon Cineplex, the showtimes had been shifted around, and I missed the last screening of the day. I did check out the censorship exhibition. It is mostly in Thai -- history for the Thai people, by the Thai people -- but I was interested to note that Thai films have been censored from the very beginning: what is considered to be the first Thai feature film, Miss Suwanna of Siam, was censored because of an execution scene that may or may not have been real.

My interest in actually seeing the butchered Syndromes has been waxing and waning over the past few days, but with Celinejulie's review, my interest has picked up again. Celinejulie offers what I believe to be a unique perspective on the film, that of a Thai person who is highly knowledgeable about world cinema, and who has not seen the original version.

Over at Limitless Cinema, Celinejulie's review is called "Syndromes and Century: Thailand's Edition or when Babette's Feast meets Salo". Here is an excerpt:

Syndromes and a Century: Thailand's Edition is a unique experience for me. I have been wanting for a long time for movies being censored in Thailand to do something like this—to be upfront about it and tell the audience exactly what parts have been censored or cut off, instead of keeping this fact a secret. Many films which have been censored in Thailand don’t tell the audience that they have been censored. I don’t know why. Maybe the film releasing company thinks that the audience will choose to watch a pirated video instead, if they tell the audience the fact that they have been censored.

I know if I've heard a film is censored, I generally won't go see it. Or, if I see it and notice that it's been censored, I tell people about it. Funny thing is, after a recent spate of Hollywood films being censored here: Sweeney Todd, American Gangster, Hitman and possibly Charlie Wilson's War, things have become kind of quiet on the censorship front, apart from Syndromes, that is unless they have been censoring films I haven't gone to see, such as Step Up 2: The Streets and 27 Dresses. On the other hand, Neil Marshall's Doomsday looked to have unspooled in all its decapitated head, cannibalistic glory. Perhaps the censors will start back up again once they've sharpened their scissors and flushed the buffers on their pixellation software.

I've also gotten a reaction on the censored scenes from someone I consider to be a very average Thai person -- a traditional Thai masseuse whom I'm well acquainted with. I showed her the scenes from YouTube. Here are her reactions:

I didn't press the issue of censorship, whether she thought it was proper for the scenes to be removed from the director's film, but judging from her reactions, and lack of reactions, censorship is the least of her worries. Having to get to work and pull a double shift over the Songkran holiday was her main worry. If she took her normal day off, which this year fell during the Songkran festival, she would be fired.

Such is life for the average Thai person. No wonder they just want to see comedy.


  1. Merveillesxx (a Thai film blogger) told me that his friend went to see SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION and thought that the first censored scene is about a monk having sex with a doctor. Actually, that scene is about the monk playing guitar. I think censorship in Thailand has spawned a very lively imagination.

  2. Hilarious. Now I really want to see this version.

  3. What we imagine is always more extreme than the reality - if Thailand's edition was uncensored, people would see how unshocking the scenes really are.

    Arguably the scene with the monk recounting his dream is more anti-monks, as this character is (to me, at least) far from sympathetic.

  4. The fact that Jit has managed to see "Salo" in Thailand (albeit on pirate DVD, I imagine) but has not been able to see the original "Syndromes" seems to show just how insane this whole situation is ...


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