Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evil tsunami spirits in Vinyan

Vinyan, a French-Belgian-UK thriller filmed in Thailand, and set in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, is about a Western couple (Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell) who lose their son in the tsunami. Six months after the disaster they remain in Thailand, with the wife believing in her heart of hearts that her son is still alive, and that he was kidnapped by pirates. Through a contact in the Thai underworld (Thai pop rocker Petch Osathanugrah), the couple is able to hire a boat to take them into pirate-infested Burmese waters, where they discover a strange tribe of children living in the jungle.

It has a real Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now vibe, with a bit of Lord of the Flies or possibly Children of the Corn thrown in.

Vinyan, which means "evil spirit" in Thai, premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. A review from London's Guardian, was not kind. The film is also set for the Toronto International Film Festival.

In a BBC interview in Venice, Belgian director Fabrice du Welz defended his use of the tsunami as a plot device, saying he took pains to ensure the tragedy was depicted "artistically and poetically". Here's some quotes:

I know some people may be irritated but I think these subjects have to be dealt with."

"For me the tsunami was a starting point. I never asked if it was a good or a bad thing.

"My story is about a couple who have lost a child. I tried to deal with their sorrow with a certain distance and respect, without being melodramatic."

French actress Emmanuelle Beart also defended the film.

"I never felt we were being insensitive or treading on people's toes. Having seen Fabrice's first film, I realised he wouldn't deal with mourning and the loss of a child in a normal way."

"For people in the West, death is a taboo -- it's fearful and dizzying. In Thailand there is this idea that death is continuative.

"They believe certain souls have to be released because they're stuck between two levels. We, the living, are holding them back."

In the run-up to its world premiere, the film had gained a reputation for being violent and gory. You can check out the trailer on YouTube, but a better version and additional clips are available at Twitch.

There was concern over censorship in France. But it's been given a fairly unrestrictive “forbidden for Under 12” rating, and is due for wide release in France on October 1. No word on if it'll turn up in Thai cinemas anytime soon.

(Via Bloody Disgusting, Twitch)

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