Award Winning Thai Film ‘Nang Nak’

December 26, 2005 at 9:16 am (Other Films of Note)

Nang Nak (1999 – Thailand)
Director/Producer: Nonzee Nimibutr
Screenplay: Visit Sartsanatieng
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“An awesome, lushly crafted and immersive introduction to the world of Thai ghost stories that should by no means be overlooked .”

~ Gaijin Otaku Gundan
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Much more so than Bangkok Haunted or Lhorn which are both mildly entertaining but un-scary and nearly devoid of any true cultural significance – “Nang Nak” provides an awesome introduction to the world of Thai ghost stories and is simply a beautiful film to look at.

“Nang Nak” (or Miss Nak in English) is a brilliantly filmed, atmospheric meditation on just how far someone’s love might be able to extend beyond this mortal world. And though it’s not quite terrifying per se, there are enough chills to be had – if one gives themselves over to the story that is. Not a problem for me, I was entranced by the end of the opening sequence!

Set in the 1860’s this famous Thai cautionary tale centers around Mak and his newly pregnant wife Nak, left frightened and alone in their remote river bank village after her young husband is called to war. While fighting Mak is seriously wounded and suffers a menacing recovery lasting many months as Monks in Bangkok nurse him back to health. Returning home he joyously reunites with devoted wife Nak and their newborn son, beginning life anew as a father. But of course, things may not quite be what they seem.

Using artfully done jump-cut flashbacks and disquieting imagery of Nak in labor, it becomes clear to the viewer something’s gone horribly wrong with the delivery. The mystery takes an even darker turn as husband Mak begins to hear very disturbing things from close friends regarding his bride – since leaving to fight in the war she has become shunned and even hated by everyone around them. Refusing to believe or even discuss the possibility Nak might be somehow to blame Mak struggles to make sense of what has transpired while fear tightens its grip around the entire village. Have they all succumbed to mass hysteria… or is there a very real reason everyone is terrified of the beautiful Miss Nak?

Minor stylistic nit picking aside, the few detracting elements I might be tempted to argue are trifling at best and most are just my fear-junkie jones for bigger scares. (In the interest of fairness however, included below is a brief airing of grievances for anyone who cares to read it.)

Yes, it’s an age old epic that’s been released on film more than once in the past, but never before with the graceful, deftly understated power director Nonzee Nimbutr has pulled off with this latest recitation.

This movie has sweeping cinematography, a spot-on screenplay, a few spooky chills and some almost painfully beautiful people featured in the cast… I mean come on, what more do you want?!

The GOG-CD Bottom Line:
Anyone interested in Asian cinema or folklore should benefit by taking in Nang Nak and after giving it high marks across the board, I most heartily recommend the experience!

Details Of Reviewed DVD:

Region Free – Thai Audio & English Subtitles

Studio: Tai Seng
DVD rls: 2001
Length: 101 mins
Rating: NR

For full cast, crew and other info – Click Here

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And Now – Tonight’s ‘Brief Airing Of Grievances’ Portion Of Our Program

While I admit there are some lulls in the pace of story progression, it’s my opinion they don’t detract much from the film overall. Aint no 10 minute Merchant Ivory vacuums lulling you to sleep and anyways, if you think stillness is some kind of cinematic offense you better steer clear of names like Kitano Takeshi or Kim Ki-Duk. I mean if you found Nang Nak a little slow, you’re gonna hate most of those guys movies!

Kidding of course, cause just like everything else in this world, preference on a movies pace is totally subjective. Honestly, while viewing Nang Nak for the first time and having observed similar oddities in other Thai film, I wrote off the starts and stops of narrative as some cultural filmmaking difference that I simply was not able to comprehend. It never occurred to me to even try seeing them as flaws in what I felt was otherwise a technically proficient film. This unpredictability and other small misgivings were fast outweighed by the numerous, wonderfully convincing set-ups capturing life in Nak and Mak’s river-bound village.

Thinking back now, this has remained one of the more interesting aspects of the film for me. I’d never given much thought to what it might’ve been like to live in 1860’s Thailand – at least a normal, peaceful villager sort of life. The stark reality of that era’s battlefields has been re-enacted so many times I feel like I was there sometimes!

See – trifling, silly little things that would have done nothing but bog down the above review of a great little flick named Nang Nak!
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