Notable Cast: Visra Vichit-Vadakan, Arak Amornsupasiri, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Penpak Sirikul, Intira Jaroenpura, Atchara Suwan
The biggest surprise of the year so far comes by way of a cryptic Thai arthouse film that no one seems to be talking about, By the Time it Gets Dark. The continuing thread throughout this layered and fragmented narrative is a protest that occurred in October of 1976, by a group of young universities students attempting to stand for democracy under the weight of a ruling fist at the time. We see a group of students lying face down on a cold floor as soldiers with guns walk around them. Photographers appear and begin to take photos, though they are from our time. There is no time travel or anything, but the film has a meta-fictional approach from the get-go.
|History, retold through a modern lens.
Relatability has always been something that people look for in films, and while some of my favorites are full of people completely opposite of me, it is nice to find yourself connecting with someone onscreen. The director character here, who has strong Jeon Do-yeon vibes, in both looks and performance (which is a HUGE compliment from me), reminded me of myself in ways. As an aspiring filmmaker, I find myself, while disagreeing at times, often lining up my ideologies with her very own. Why do we make films on extraordinary people? Maybe, perhaps, it is because of how mundane our lives are, that we create stories based on others who have experienced fulfilled and purposeful lives. It spoke to me in great depths, and while I said I wouldn't bring myself into it, it is very hard not to with this one.
|Visra Vichit-Vakadam gives a standout performance,
offering echoes of actress Jeon Do-yeon.
Eventually, the narrative abruptly switches its characters and story and focuses on a young actor (Arak Amornsupasiri), looking for his next big film role. People seem to know him, but more so for his looks than anything. I really don't want to dive in too much here, because admittedly, this is where the film began to go a bit over my head at times. I want to revisit as soon as possible to try and understand more of what I missed or didn't even think of the first time around. I think it focuses more on the issues of isolation and loneliness that even the most surrounded by people face. I sort of feel it reflects modern society in general, but perhaps my interpretation is off a bit.
|Easily the most visually stunning film of the year!
To wrap things up, I think By the Time it Gets Dark is a truly unique cinematic experience and one of the best films I've ever had the pleasure of viewing. I believe it is a masterpiece, and one that I will only grow more fondly of and have a deeper appreciation towards as time goes on. It touches on so many things that I didn't even get to in this review, such as history and how it is impossible to recreate and capture it without actually haven been there, to name just one of many. I need to explore more of Anocha's works, and I finally have someone to praise from the land alongside Weerasethakul. I could go on and on about this one, and perhaps I have too much here, but this is a masterful film and presents me with possibly the greatest question that I could have taken away from it all: How much fantastic Thai cinema is out there, and where can I find it? See this one as soon as humanly possible. It's one of a kind.
Written by Josh Parmer