Krabi, 2562 review – mystery and mysticism in the Thai tropics

Cinemas, cavemen and a missing woman all form parts of the plot in this surreal sojourn between the real and spiritual worlds

It is the Buddhist year 2562 (or 2019 in the Gregorian calendar), and this probing, experimental and collaborative film by Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong follows its nose around the coastal province of Krabi in southern Thailand, a big tourist attraction since the release of The Beach in 2000, shot on the Phi Phi Islands there. It is a kind of docu-fiction essay, using non-professionals, with a discreet but pointed sense of the supernatural, in the style of the Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

An elegant woman (Siraphan Wattanajinda), describing herself variously as a market researcher and a movie location scout, asks a local guide (Primrin Puarat) to show her around the tourist spots, such as the Phra Nang cave, a place reputed to aid fertility. She also goes to the disused movie theatre where the former manager (Lieng Leelatiwanon) takes her up to see its rooftop “shrine to cinema”. It is here that her parents first met, she claims.

Meanwhile, an actor (Arak Amornsupasiri) is shooting a soft-drink commercial in the burning sun. But something very weird happens: the woman disappears (as inexplicably as the woman in Antonioni’s L’Avventura). And while roaming in the woodland between takes, the actor discovers a prehistoric caveman living in the forest.

It is all presented calmly and undramatically, as if nothing unusual is happening. There is a deadpan playfulness in this film, coexisting with a dreamy insistence that there are such things as spirits and ghosts and they are as commonplace as cars or hotels. What is happening? Is the present collapsing into the past and future? Are the things of the spirit merging with those of the flesh? Maybe. It is not as visually exalted as Weerasethakul’s films, but intriguing nonetheless.

Krabi, 2562 is on Mubi from 29 May.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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