FILM REVIEW: ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’

Dao Khanong/ดาวคะนอง (By the Time It Gets Dark). Electric Eel Films, 2016. Directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong. In Thai. 105 minutes.

The News Lens
Date: 2017/06/25
By: Andrew Alan Johnson

Anocha “Mai” Suwichakornpong’s “By the Time it Gets Dark” is not a typical narrative. One might place it into the category of avant-garde Thai film in the vein of Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, but Anocha’s sensibilities are not quite Apichatpong’s. Rather than descend into Apichatpong’s surreal Isan dreamscapes, Anocha’s camera is more modern art.

Repetition – like those meerkats – is central theme of “By the Time it Gets Dark” — we repeat the same conversations (but with different characters in slightly different relationships), the same relationships repeat (a bland-looking film star, walking with his new lover, meets his ex arm-in-arm with a man who looks oddly similar). History repeats, Anocha tells us, and we are caught in it. As one of her characters, a former Thammasat student activist from the 1970s, says, we are not heroes of history, but rather those who have simply survived it. History washes over us in its cycles, and we simply ride it out until we can no longer.

Watching “Dark” is hypnotic. Part of this is Anocha’s loving attention to texture: be it the swirl of grey hair on the back of a nun’s head, or the rough wood of a rural house’s walls, part of the viewing involves getting lost in these rich details. But as we lose ourselves in these details, like a mushroom trip, once Anocha’s camera begins to reveal how these patterns repeat, one sees fractal-like repetition everywhere: a cloud of bubbles presents endless mirrored surfaces, a loaf of bread shows lines and lines of identically-shaped slices, the young woman (now a janitor) empties toilet stall after mirrored toilet stall.    [FULL  STORY]

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