Sunday, October 19, 2008
Love of Siam (Rak Haeng Siam) in Cinemanila 2008
I just had to write this down. I was so taken by the film although it's all of two and a half hours running time. As part of the Cinemanila 2008 lineup of films, I watched Love of Siam (Rak Haeng Siam), a Thai film written and directed by Chukiat Sakveerakul. The last gay-themed film that I liked was Chansons d'Amour and now, I think, Love of Siam is going to be my all time favorite gay-themed film.
Love of Siam stars Mario Maurer (of German and Chinese descent and oh so heartachingly cute) who plays Tong and the equally charming Witwisit "Pitchy" Hiranyawongkul who plays pianist/composer/singer Mew.
I did some googling on Love of Siam and found out that the film is a first of sorts. At 150 minutes, the film is markedly longer than most Thai films, and another is that it is a drama film, which is rare in the Thai industry, which mainly produces horror, comedy, action and (heterosexual) teen romance films. And, of course, it is gay-themed though nothing hinted at that fact in its promotional posters in Thailand. Director Sakveerakul said that this was intentional as he did not want to limit the audience of the film to gay audiences. His instincts proved him right. Released in Thai cinemas on November 22, 2007, and opening on 146 screens, the film was a commercial hit earning a total of US$1,305,125 on its third week, and earned good reviews as well from the critics. It also dominated Thailand's 2007 film awards season, winning the Best Picture category in all major national film award events, including the Thailand National Film Association Awards, Starpics Magazine's Starpics Awards, the Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards, Star Entertainment Awards. And more importantly, Love of Siam is now also Thailand's official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film for the 81st Oscars Awards.
But to go back into why I sooo loved the film, I just had to say that director Chukiat Sakveerakul had such a good material in his hands, a great amount of sensibility both in dialogues and direction (showing Thai culture as it is today), and he was blessed with very good actors as well. He has shown not only the "young" love between two teenager males but also the love of a mother for her lost daughter, for her husband, showing as well an unrequited love...of a young girl falling for a gay friend, and of love on the friendship level. Sakveerakul's unraveling of the story is so much like the special gift giving style he showed at the onset of the film where Tong initially gave a piece of paper to Mew. Mew finds out that that piece of paper leads to another clue in a piece of paper that leads to a part of a gift, then another paper that has a clue that leads to another piece of the gift until one finds the gift itself.
At the end of watching the film, the Filipino viewers that night in Cinemanila 2008(which were all so openly appreciative and affected by the film judging by their reactions during the entire run of the film) were gifted with the beauty of the story of the film itself. And gays in the country, no matter how jaded or highly-sexed, I'm sure, would, in their hearts of hearts, find themselves awashed clean, remembering a special love in their lives, re-awakened anew by how strange and wonderful love could really be upon watching this beautiful beautiful gift of a film.
My favorite part would be that bed scene where Mew explains the source of his loneliness to Tong-- about his fear of losing a loved one and the pain that goes with loving that person. At the same time, Mew has learned to accept that it is impossible for anyone to go through life without loving anyone. Then Tong enfolds Mew in his arms and lets Mew to rest partly on his chest.