Available on demand now is the extraordinary Krabi, 2562 (named after a province in Thailand) – and here’s our review of the film.
Krabi, 2562 is a film full of stories: recounting of past lives, folklore, and people who themselves are fictionalised. In Krabi, a province on Southern Thailand’s west coast, popular with tourists, the pre-historic world clashes with the modern, which has its own discordancy between tourism and locals.
Rivers and Suwichakornpong explore what might be termed the ‘tourist’s gaze’, both employing and rejecting it in favour of sweeping panoramas and eccentric focal points. The camera swoops, drags and stutters, taking our focus away from what we’d expect to see: the interviewer rather than the interviewee is filmed; we repeatedly return to the landscape of a farm; we are left outside a home as a mother and her son go inside. The film takes its time in contrasting the elements of the different worlds; a long, languid tracking shot of opaque water and rock formations takes a more sinister turn as the camera cuts to Siraphan Wattanajinda’s back, keeping our eyes on her as she slowly vanishes into pitch darkness.
Wattanajinda’s character, the unnamed woman, is emblematic of the film’s preoccupation with identity. Is she a location scout, a market researcher, a woman exploring her parents’ past, or none of these? Her disappearance within the film’s narrative is put across in a jumbled chronology, switching from interviewing the film projector – the last person to see her alive – to his encounter with her. The unnamed woman’s story thread touches that of various interviewees, and she can be seen as the central thread of the film. The camera follows her around both the popular tourist sites of Krabi, and zooms in on details that appear to be inconsequential, such as a running child or a muddled sculpture in front of her hotel window, the latter half-natural, half-unnatural. It leaves us in an uncanny valley where the natural world clashes with the urban.
There are clashes and contrasts everywhere, with the sound design particularly leaning into this. Insect and animal sounds are juxtaposed with traffic and urban life; military marching is laid over the hubbub of rush hour; sounds are oft-unsettling, suggesting a constant conflict at the heart of Krabi as its identity is questioned through the characters and their exploration of the province. This is sometimes draining, and can feel as if the film is beating you over the head with the contrast between natural and man-made, or the ravages of tourism.
Furthermore, the cringeworthy American tourists, introduced towards the end of the film, are difficult to reconcile with the rest of the film – we’ve already understood the worries that Krabi and those who know it are facing, and the massage-seeking, selfie-taking tourists lack any of the film’s previous, more nuanced demonstrations of Krabi’s newer identity. However, this may well be the point, and the refocusing of the film on this couple arguably echoes the rapid changes instigated by tourism in Thailand.
Either way, the film is a very much deserving of your time. Krabi, 2562 feels like a film that has been made with love and concern over the impact of tourism on Thailand and its identity. Experimenting with time, sound and worlds seemingly unconnected, the film raises more questions than it answers, and leaves potential connections dangling unmade. However, this seems more purposeful than accidental: to leave the audience uncertain of elements within the film conveys the uncertainty surrounding Thailand’s future as it is further invaded, and the inability to foresee what that future will hold.
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