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8thDay

 

By Sorradithep Supachanya / 5 March 2008

   
 

A psychological thriller, revolving around a character with a morally controversial intent, shot almost entirely in black and white, and without the blood and gore or the jerking sound effect found in many other horror movies, director Chatchai Yodsaranees The 8th Day provides a refreshing break from the usual Thai cinema offerings of tiresome slapstick comedies, indistinguishable ghost stories, and formulaic martial arts actions. This is a cause for celebration.

The project saw its start from a small group of young and first-time moviemakers, coming together to create change in Thai cinema. Without backing by any major studio, the filmmakers have free hand in their creative expression. And the result clearly reflects it.

The 8th Day chronicles seven days of accidental captivity of a little five-year-old girl Prae (Jennie Oprasert) by a senile and mentally unstable old woman Choob (Watsana Chalakorn from Shutter), amid full view of a neighboring medical student Noom (Thanawet Siriwatthanakul) who simply regards the incident as the perfect case study for his psychiatry thesis.

The story unfolds in black and white (with flashbacks in full color, interestingly, perhaps to represent the characters happier days), fitting with its message about how society constantly judges its citizens as clearly defined labels without shades of in-betweens. People are either good or bad. Actions are either moral or immoral. But rarely do most of us consider the possibilities that both an angel and a demon, a villain and a victim, live inside each one of us.

For example, the medical student is not a heartless villain driven by jealousy of his family friends accomplishments; he eventually saves the little girl before things exacerbate and becomes the towns hero. The senile woman, despite her mental conditions caused by seizure many years ago, is not a guiltless victim; we see drawers full of unopened prescriptions, suggesting that she has been skipping her medication for ages. And the little girls parents, traumatized throughout most of the film by their daughters sudden disappearance, can take the partial blame for leaving her alone in the playground, thus allowing the senile woman whose house sits right next to the playground to invite the little girl inside before forgetting about her and locking her away.

Veteran actress Watsana Chalakorn gives a fine performance here as the mentally unstable woman who is still trying to cope with her daughters tragic death (mostly caused by her own conditions)a role seldom portrayed on the big screen, although she sometimes overacts, especially in the scenes in which she thinks Prae is a ghost of her daughter coming back to haunt her. As for other actors, they are given too few chances to shine because The 8th Day is too much of a Choobs story. The plot could be more complete if the audience gets to peek into the medical students mind and motive for his ethically contentious actions, or the little girls possibly sour relationship with her loving but negligent parents.

While watching, I wondered to myself whether this film should have been renamed The 8 Days instead of The 8th Day to signify the duration of the incident. But the answer comes at the ending. The eighth day is the start of a new week and life, without all of its ironies and cruelties, goes on and on. Now, thats something we never get from big studio releases.

 

 

 

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