By MHERYLL GIFFEN L. ALFORTE
AS HUMANS navigate through the different stages of life, sometimes memories fail and begin to be veiled with mist. As a defiant attempt, only then does one decide to resort on what fiction can offerㅡall for the sake of preserving and reliving these memories.
Directed by Puangsoi Aksornsawang, Nakorn-Sawan is an entry to this year’s QCinema International Film Festival under the Asian Next Wave section. Puangsoi attempts to connect documentary and fiction to create an extraordinary spectacle where the lines between memory, fact and fiction blur together. In this hybrid film, there are two distinct parts that parallel each other: an intimate documentary footage recorded personally by the filmmaker herself, and a polished and more detached fictional sequence of a young woman coming back home after the death of her mother.
The film starts with Puangsoi coming home from abroad to visit her hometown Songkhla, Thailand where her parents make ends meet in a rubber plantation. With a casual and humorous atmosphere permeating the air, Puangsoi and her parents throw banters and jabs among each other. This light and intimate tone offers the audience a warm and homely feeling that puts them into the filmmaker’s shoes.
However, the audience suddenly gets a taste of a more solemn mood as the film shifts into another narrative — a fictional story where a family and some monks are performing an ash-floating rite on a boat sailing along Pak Nam Po River of Nakorn-Sawan (Heavenly City). The film focuses on Aoey (Prapamonton Eiamchan) who, after five years, comes home to Thailand for the week of her mother’s funeral.
Upon first observation, the film presents a fragmented take in detailing its narrative which at first, may be hard to follow and interpret. But as it progresses, the pacing slowly picks up, and the parallels between the two stories grow increasingly discernable. This is evident when Aoey engages in an abrupt discussion with her father (Yuwabun Thungsuwan) in the boat ride, mirroring Puangsoi’s casual banter from the earlier part of the film. As this parallelism becomes more apparent, it also becomes obvious that Aoey is the fictional onscreen counterpart of Puangsoi. Through Aoey’s character, the filmmaker is able to express her grief over the death of her mother.
The cinematography successfully captures the essence of the film. It is striking and easily noticeable because of the distinct differences between the two parts. While the documentary segments show shaky and raw clips of the director’s family life before the tragedy, the fictional sequence contrasts it with captivating shot compositions that depict what happened after- the characters’ agony in its rawest form. As an artist, Puangsoi effectively utilizes her artistry in film as a means to contemplate and relive her own memories. Nakorn-Sawan is an original and experimental approach to turn a director’s personal grief into an art. It is a means of healing to come into terms with past regrets and the grief of losing a beloved. F