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Karma Gets a Makeover in Ahimsa: Stop to Run

 

Sorradithep Supachanya                            

 

24 October 2005

 

The concept of karma permeates the plot of probably every Thai movie ever made but it never gets a fresher look than in this year’s most creative Thai film, Ahimsa: Stop to Run.

In this film, Karma (Teeradanai Suwanahom) sports Nike shoes and red hair and enjoys beating senseless out of Ahimsa (Boriwat Youto), a jobless 23-year-old who otherwise wastes his life away drinking, smoking, and partying. This appearance of Karma is only part of Ahimsa’s pains; he also starts foreseeing fatal futures of his friend Pattaya (Tharanya Suttabusya) and must therefore rush to save her.

Translating the Buddhist philosophy into a story to which the teenager audience can relate is not an easy task, but the director-writer Kittkorn Leosirikul manages to do so by personifying karma as a Nike-wearing bully (you cannot outrun karma), by killing U-Kot (Prinya Ngamwongwarn) who loves making merits (sins cannot be cleansed simply by doing good deeds), and by bestowing good-hearted Ahimsa an undeservingly tragic fate in the end (we are responsible for our past karma). Those who are familiar with Buddhism will know before seeing the movie that Ahimsa (pronounced “Ahingsa” when written in Thai) means causing no harm to another being.

Aside from this excellent direction and script, Ahimsa: Stop to Run also benefits from fine acting by the teenage cast of Kittikorn’s 2001 adolescence movie Goal Club. The performances of Teeradanai, Boriwat, and Prinya all appear natural and not over-the-top.

With plot mostly focusing on Ahimsa trying to save Pattaya (whom the film reveals as lovers in their past lives), Ahimsa: Stop to Run chooses to remain essentially a teenage film even though it has potential to transcend it. If the director cuts the first part of the film when we learn that the young Ahimsa has encountered his red-haired Karma, it will strengthen the plot by creating an interpretation that Karma is a hallucinatory side effect of LSD

(because Karma only appears after Ahimsa takes the drug). Moreover, I wish that the doctor character would have more role than being a damsel in distress; she could have psychoanalyzed Ahimsa and mentioned something about his schizophrenia.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Einstein (Joni Anwar) gives a scientific explanation to fortune telling and predestination. I hope for more but unfortunately the script fails to let him explain other difficult topics, such as why people are forced to repay their past lives’ karma and when will this vicious cycle end? I would also like to hear his perspective on the eternal debate of free will versus determinism.

While Ahimsa: Stop to Run falls short of being a thought provoking film, I still find it refreshing to see a Thai film attempting to deal with complex philosophies and being creative with a concept as timeless and as familiar in Thai society as karma.

 

 

 

 

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