Mundane History

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Mundane History


Suwichakompong calls me from Bangkok to discuss the scenes and motivation behind Mundane History. “I wrote the film knowing that I wanted to make it on a very manageable scale; something not too big, as most of the film takes place inside one house.” As both the film’s screenwriter and director, constructing the relationship between lead characters Ake, a young paraplegic and his nurse, Pun, was essential to gaining the film its critical acclaim. “The script came about quite organically. As the film opens, we don’t know what caused Ake to be in such a condition, but we know that it’s not from birth and that there’s an accident which causes his disability. Pun is a male nurse who’s been hired by the father to look after Ake, and I think there’s something very organic between a patient and a nurse, or over time, because they have to spend a lot of time together. It’s something that comes about very naturally, so that was something for me that wasn’t very hard to write.”

Though this isn’t the young filmmakers’ first screenplay, it was Suwichakompong’s feature-length directorial debut. “Directing is actually more difficult,” she explains. “Because the two actors didn’t know each other previously and actually only met two weeks before shooting started.” A move which thrust the two actors into a similar situation to that of Ake and Puns, fittingly. “I have to say because we were shooting in one house, it was a very intense experience. Everyone stayed in the one house for about 3 weeks, so people grew very close very fast. That actually helped a lot.”

The closeness of the cast translates quite easily on screen, as does the silent, documentary-esque nature of the film – which showcases Suwichakompong’s own talents as a fresh new filmmaker to the industry. “It took me a long time to become a filmmaker because I didn’t study film in the beginning. I studied design and then I studied arts education and cultural studies, but film was always in the back of my mind. I loved watching films growing up and somehow, making a career out of it seemed farfetched. And it wasn’t until finally I couldn’t live with it anymore. I was like, either I’m going to have to immediately try my hands and see what happens, or just live my life like it is, and maybe one day I will regret it. You know that moment? I hadn’t really done anything that I wanted to do, so I didn’t want to live with that regret.”

After studying in the UK and returning to Thailand to work in a completely unrelated field, Suwichakompong finally took the leap and made the decision to go to film school and join the industry in more official terms. “I don’t belong in the industry, per say. The independent filmmaking community in Thailand is quite small. I think it’s totally fair to say that we exist outside the industry, and that the line is quite definite, you know? There’s not so much crossover – there are very few directors who work in both worlds, but most of us belong to either camp. So, the film industry is very active and very solid here in Thailand. The independent camp, on the other hand, I would say nowadays would be a little bit more apparent and more visible, but when Mundane History was released, if you go back a few years ago, it would’ve been very hard to release a film independently.”

What a treat – then – that Mundane History is independently making its way to an ACMI screen near you, and some years after its official release in 2009. The film has since won a Tiger Award in 2010 at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and has also launched Suwichakompong comfortably into her position as a promising filmmaker. Mundane History may be a quiet chapter in Thai cinema – but it is an unforgettable one – sure to make history of its own.