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Nicolas Winding Refn
Kristin Scott Thomas,
Eullenia premiered at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in Korea after it successfully opened the 4th Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival earlier in July. Paul Spurrier's picture presents a dark psychological exploration of personal tragedy, desperation, loneliness, self-destruction, and capitalism on acid.
The British director achieves a milestone of Thai cinema: an independent Bangkok-set film that juxtaposes the East with the West and features enthralling Italian Renaissance music realized by Thailand's eminent composer. Authenticity, rawness, and passion permeate this genre-defying film. Following initial acclaim, Eullenia's uniqueness is poised to captivate audiences around the world.
Spurrier's film illuminates the mind of a haunted man who finds pleasure in agony. Ferociously portrayed by the Scottish actor Alec Newman (Dune, 2000), Marcus Hammond is a ruthless billionaire who runs his business on simple principles while moonlighting as a mysterious sadist. With the help of a sycophantic servant Boo, played with cool reserve by Vithaya Pansringarm (Only God Forgives), Hammond embarks on nocturnal cruises around Bangkok in a black van in search of naive Thai women to whom he makes a startling offer. He yearns for the macabre allure of pain and the release that can be obtained only from the presence of death.
Eullenia's protagonist was inspired by the lurid life of the late Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo. The composer's idiosyncratic music figures prominently in the film, most memorably during a terrifying dinner scene. Maestro Somtow Sucharitkul and the Calliope Chamber Choir did a magnificent job breathing new life into Gesualdo's notoriously challenging madrigals. That they are the first musicians in Thailand to have recorded Gesualdo's offbeat and obscure works adds to Sucharitkul's accomplishment. Spurrier wrote the original score. His music blends seamlessly into the seedy bowels of Bangkok. Somber strings play a haunting theme during breathtaking nighttime aerial and street shots. Thanks to the score and immersive cinematography, the City of Angels becomes a crucial character. Spurrier shows the real Bangkok that escapes most travelers. The viewers, who inhabit, have visited or plan a trip to Thailand's vibrant metropolis will find Eullenia doubly intriguing.
Established Hollywood producers David Cluck (The Artist), Jeffrey Calman (Warner Home Video), Robert Neft (Apt Pupil), and Brian Askew (Fermosa Betrayed) enabled the director creative freedom, including casting new talent. Eullenia introduces three budding Thai female actresses, who dazzle with their innocence. Spurrier is gifted at handling subtle moments and eliciting raw life from his actors. The Bangkok-based director worked again with an entirely Thai crew, following P (2005) and The Forest (2016), his previous features, which dealt with the supernatural.
If for no other reason, see Eullenia to be moved by Apicha Suyanandana, who brings rare fragility to her role. She is Nam, a pure soul who makes an impossible choice. When she smiles, we forget we are watching a movie. When she cries, she reaches our humanity. Aomkham Natchanok is another discovery. She gives Lek both vulnerability and a fierce, independent spirit. The Thai star Manatsanun Phanlerdwongsakul shines in her brief cameo role as the journalist Kirstie. Spurrier, who is fluent in Thai, has Thai characters speak mostly in their native language. Hollywood's linguistic copouts have no place in Eullenia, and little quirks in the script reflect each character's identity.
In an acting masterclass near the end, Alec Newman delivers a shattering Machiavellian monologue that unveils Hammond's philosophy. On one level, the film works as an allegory: it exposes the decadence of the West and challenges its arrogant claim to cultural supremacy. Westerners who come to Thailand thinking they are superior to Thais and can buy their Land of Smiles receive a rude awakening.
The final scene retains mystery. There is much potential for the story to continue. Despite its dark tone, Eullenia is a love letter to Thailand aimed at international audiences. The film now awaits a wide release in Thailand before it enters Europe and North America.
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