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If You Cant Be with the One You Love: October Sonata Tells Familiar Story with a Fresh Take

  Sorradithep Supachanya / 25 December 2009
   
 

 

Its an age-old story retold: the love that isnt meant to be, the first impression that lasts a lifetime, and the sacrifices made in the pursuit of love. But October Sonata, Somkiat Vituranits heartbreaking romantic drama, is surprisingly fresh, retelling a familiar story of love and loss with the unique zeitgeist of Thailands 1970s era of passionate ideologies and student activism.

The film opens with a chance encounter of Sangchan (Ratchawin Wongwiriya) and Rawee (Thanawat Wattanaput) at the funeral of Mitr Chaibancha, a legendary Thai actor. Rawee is furthering his studies abroad and the two lovers promise to meet up every October 8th at the same seaside resort they have spent their first and only night together. But fate plays a cruel joke, as the political upheaval of the 70s and the romantic feeling of Sangchans friend Lim (Pisanu Nimsakul) toward her get in their way.

The plot paces so well it does not feel rushed even though the story spans the period of over a decade. It skips unnecessary details and slows down when it needs to delve into the characters emotions, especially during the few brief encounters of Sangchan and Rawee when it seems as though their world has stopped turning. And the audience could feel it too: their happiness and ardor permeate through scenes in which they watch fireflies, dance in the rain, and gaze into the sunset sky. That someone would wait her whole life for a stranger she barely knows may be incredible, but scenes like these can make us believe that Sangchans memorable night of the first encounter can last a lifetime.

The film is also rich in symbolism. In the scene in which Sangchan insists on being called Pleun, a character in the novel that Rawee introduces to her, we see her reflection in the wall mirror, visually implying the duality of her identity and choiceschoosing to wait for the man she loves or accepting the marriage proposal from the man who can take care of her. In another scene in which we see Sangchan and Rawee at the window with the rain cascading down on Rawees side of the window and blurring his image like a mirage or an evaporating apparition of a perfect love that doesnt exist. Those familiar with Thai language may also pick up the fact that Rawee means the sun, Sangchan the moon; and we rarely see these two together.

Sangchan is an interesting character to watch. Even with the years passed, she is still the same na?ve girl obsessing with idealistic heroes. With her movie stars death, she finds a new hero in Rawee, a handsome, educated man who serenades her with romantic thoughts of a perfect love.



I wish the film would reveal more about what happens to Rawee on the other 364 days of the year. What his passion, aspiration, and life story are. But perhaps this is intentional. To Sangchan, Rawee becomes a fleeting dream that ends before the dawn breaks. Neither probes the others personal life, and both commit to make the most of their one day together.

Lim has the most heartbreaking role of a man with so much love to give but receive nothing in return. In one of the most painful scenes, Lim learns of Sangchans October 8th tryst and informs her of his subsequent brothel visit just to get her jealous, but she gives him a tepid response.

The three leads turn in decent performances, although more experienced actors would give a more gut-wrenching experience. In any case, writer-director Somkiat Vituranit proves his previous success, the canine adventure Mid-Road Gang (2007), was not a fluke. This time he singlehandedly crafts a film that is both tender and heartbreaking. October Sonata is this years gem that shouldnt be missed.

   
   

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