90th Oscar Best Foreign-Language Entry for Thailand
The delicately poetic second feature by Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong weaves together multiple stories and characters to create a portrait of a beautiful country haunted by the lingering trauma of the 1976 government-sanctioned massacre of student demonstrators in Bangkok.
A shape-shifting narrative around memory, politics and cinema, the film weaves together the stories of several characters. We meet a young waitress serving breakfast at an idyllic country café, only to later find her employed in the busy dining room of a river cruise ship. And we meet a filmmaker interviewing an older woman whose life was transformed by the political activism of her student years and the Thammasat University massacre of 1976. With her tender, unobtrusive filmmaking style, Suwichakornpong allows us to get to know these characters slowly and deeply. At the same time, we see how their beautiful country and its troubled history inform their actions and identities in ways both overt and subtle.
Country: Thailand, France, Netherlands, Qatar
Runtime: 105 mins
Assistant Director :
Director of Photography ：
MING KAI LEUNG
Production Designer :
Art Director :
RASSAMI PAOLUENGTONG PENPAK SIRIKUL
THONGDEELERT JAWAREE APINYA SAKULJAROENSUK
WAYWIREE ITTIANUNKUL NATDANAI WANGSIRIPAISARN
The movie is a swirl of startling, sensuously rendered transitions, identities sliding among characters, fictions cracking open to reveal still more fictions within. This film marks only Suwichakornpong’s second feature, but it already suggests a heady iconoclast snooping out profound points of exchange between the possibilities of narration through images and the politics of memory.
Suwichakornpong subtly uses fragmented images, identity slippage and ellipsis to dig for the core of contemporary Thai experience and ask profound questions about how memory, politics and cinema intersect. You’ll be lucky to find a more ambitious or enthralling work of cinema in this year’s festival
For its opening stretch, Suwichakornpong’s film uses familiar film-within-a-film tropes in what seems incongruously lyrical style, given the theme of state violence. But as it continues, with characters proliferating and levels of reality fragmenting wildly, the film’s own status as an intransigently enigmatic art object takes the upper hand. This film was one of the more bracingly unstable things on show this year.
The extradiegetic digital freak-out at film’s end foregrounds the constructedness of all images, but what’s still more remarkable is Suwichakornpong’s willingness to abdicate a certain kind of logic and directorial control in favor of a strangely intuitive, even random rethinking of narrative and historiography, taking up and discarding concepts and plot threads for which, even for the filmmaker, there may be no clear explanation.
As a humanistic portrait of ordinary people linked together by a turbulent history, By the Time It Gets Dark follows in the same path as the works of Thai directors Weerasethakul, Assarat, and Ratanaruang; but Suwichakornpong expands this idea to the fullest extent. Moving from country roads to expressways, and through photographs, films, and dreams, its many narratives converge into an Odyssean reflection on the effects of a single moment on the lives of many, even those who do not remember.