SUZY SIZE BLOGS
Review of the Movie
By Stanislaus Panicowsky
I don't know about you, my dear native English speakers, but when I first saw the title "Tropical Malady" somewhere on Internet, I believed it was Melody (Thais often misspell words). When I got my parcel with a DVD that still had the same spelling on the cover, I was amused but said to myself, "Whatever!" Only after watching the movie did I go to my friend Google and ask him what malady means. Google thought for a moment and gave me just one option (the word actually was rare):
Any unwholesome or desperate condition; illness: impairment of normal physiological function affecting part or all of an organism
Well this can be an epigraph for the review.
The story starts out pretty simple. Young soldier falls in love with a young farmer. Big friendly regiment to which farmer and soldier belong has traditional dinner in Thai sala. The guy looks at a girl across from him, our soldier at the guy, and old mama like a staff commander watches and understands all these eye manoeuvres.
One day the guy moved to the nearest big city and eventually the soldier was also transferred to that city. Yes, just a very simple romantic story. Jai yen-yen, dear reader, this is only beginning.
The middle part actually doesn't have much happening either. Our heroes become buddies and the authors of the film drag us after them everywhere - markets, cinemas, veterinary hospital. Nice cut from National Geographic - modern urban life of an exotic Asian country. We see how people unusually (for us westerners) contact each other and share their time. Yet there is something more in there.
The soldier tries to get some intimacy with his buddy by touch, look or very rich Thai word flirt (sadly it is translated in rather plain English). Sometimes the guy seems understanding and sometimes not, naively accepting things just as simple buddy's romp. He enters the game and reciprocates without any consequences. Their games become more and more erotic and yet we don't know if they crossed the line or not. This is even more difficult to understand because we know that in Thai society more intimacy is accepted between young men without judging it gayness. Our heroes don't even shy when somebody may witness something that we westerners would call gay behaviour.
This part I found well done in the best tradition of Wong Kar Wai - dissolved erotica in the air without nudeness, without even shadowed bedrooms and "sexual" sounds from the darkness. Just plain urban life with the spice of gayness, which makes for a very beautiful flavour. I sincerely enjoyed this part of the movie.
At one moment the authors decided to stop their narrative and show us another one. I don't exaggerate at all - blackout, titles and another story completely. Well the soldier is still the same. But the soldier is the only one left. He and the jungle. Jungle was the first scene in the movie and now it is taking a prime role in the remaining part of the film.
If the authors wanted to shock their spectators they did it. At least they did me. It was like flame after ice. We were watching lazy Thai city days and suddenly were transported into an impenetrable forest. We may talk heroically about "Laws of the Jungle" but believe me, with biting insects and leeches, cold and hunger, that jungle doesn't look any less threatening. Just a minute ago we were watching Kar Wai-like erotica and now we are seeing a real thriller. It appears even more a mystic thriller. The darkness did not come to the bedrooms of the city but it came to the jungle. Excellent camera work shows magnificent glowing nights and gives an incredible magical touch.
Now I will stop telling more of the story. I don't want to take away the pleasure from those who like a sense of fear and mysticism. As I see it, this part is the most difficult to understand. What is actually going on with the soldier in the jungle? What is the connection between the first and second part of the movie? But I may offer you one clue. Actually, it is only my guess, the authors don't bother to give us hints, they prefer to let it remain a mystery. Before the soldier appeared in the jungle he noticed something. This something is the connection between the two parts. The "jungle" part gives another view from inside out of a soldier's life. This something actually changes all the meaning of the first "slow" part of the movie. In the new light it doesn't look just a like erotic urban story. How then? Maybe more like "The Silence of the Lambs". Am I assuming or telling too much? Try to find out yourself. I am not going to tell you what the solder noticed. Just for your information, the Thai title of the movie (Sat Pralat) literally means Queer Monster. Tickle your feelings and stretch you mind watching this really unusual and definitely attention-grabbing piece.
Related LinksThis movie in StickyRice Store