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Hi-So Deals Effectively with Identity
  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 10 October 2011
 

 

 

Hi-So, Aditya Assarats follow up to his widely acclaimed feature film debut Wonderful Town, opens with what is perhaps the most important line in the film. The protagonist, an actor playing an amnesiac on a filming set (a movie within a movie), looks out of the window and asks, whos there.

The identity of a person is now more difficult than ever to define, especially in todays globalized world where mobile phones and the world wide web connect us, where the other side of the world is only an airport away, and where cultures converge, fuse, and clash often simultaneously and repeatedly.

Ananda Everingham (Shutter) plays this protagonist, also named Ananda, a 20-something budding actor returning to Thailand after spending many years abroad. His American girlfriend, Zoe (Cerise Leang), visits him on the filming set but soon finds him becoming too Thai for her. Later his Thai girlfriend, May (Sajee Apiwong), also feels that, with his New York Yankees t-shirt and English-peppered Thai, he still remains too American for her.

Adityas own life provides much of the basis for Anandas character. He, too, was born in Thailand but spent years abroad. And he admits feeling like a stranger in his own home country when he first returned from the States. For both Ananda and Aditya, what does it mean then to be a Thai in Thailand when a sense of belonging or a feeling of being at home is not there?

Sadly, this intriguing depiction of identity, a subject rarely explored in Thai cinema, is overshadowed by scenes of faltering relationships. Too aloof and self-absorbed, Ananda seems to be responsible for his own disastrous relationships. With May, he leaves her alone while he enjoys the party with his social circle. With Zoe, he tepidly acknowledges her broken nail and continues rehearsing his script. His identity and the cultural difference have little to do with the two girls breaking up with him.

 

 

The film also teases viewers with (mis)communication or the lack of one. May doesnt understand Anandas American slang. Anandas mother intentionally lies to her apartments caretaker to save her feeling. And Zoe enjoys a birthday party with the Thai hotel staff who can barely speak English. Unable to probe the issue further, these scenes leave the audience with only what happens, not what it means.

Hi-So is benefited more from Adityas filmmaking strength as a master of atmosphere and mood. The score is excellent. His clever use of parallel scenesthe dilapidated hotel/apartment, the script/newspaper reading, the birthday parties, the identical names of some supporting charactersaugments this uneasy feeling of being lost and drifting without a home. But the films meandering plot struggles to tie the issue of identity to those of relationship and communication into a single, coherent story. Hi-So may be unable to match Wonderful Town, but it is worth a viewing.

 

   

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