Imagination and memory, fiction and facts, dream and reality, oneself and otherness are wildly competing each other in the broken narratives of Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's independent debut P-047. And despite the delicate embellishment in the details of the cinematography, cuts, continuity, and performances to music, what comes at the end is only a glimpse of appreciation in the world of bewilderment.
There's the story of Lek the locksmith and Kong the bookseller who love to break into a strangers home and live a few moments of their lives, but steal nothing. Then comes the story of Nook, Kong's ex-girlfriend. Suddenly enters the secret love of two gay men who have their first affair in the jungle. Then Lek wakes up in a hospital where he meets a strange woman who is addicted to the smell of tin cans. The latter part even goes insane. Lek goes into Kong's home. Then a story of the book Lek the Spy suddenly comes up from nowhere. And suddenly, clips of old Thai films are rolling. At the train station, he meets and chats with Nook. He glimpses Kong at the very far track of the railway, where you will also see the mark P-047 written on the cement wall. Don't be upset that I tell you too much. You will not understand the film anyway, if you watch it for the first time.
Kongdej's mastery in creating unusual storylines and structuring complex plots echoes again in P-047. Even though you do not understand its key theme, just sub-plots can be diversified into several other good movies, from the story of two burglars who spend other people's lives, the gay men who have hidden love affair, and the solitude of forty-something man. Kongdej's sensual subtlety - rarely found in most Thai male directors - is delicately widespread throughout the female scents (when they break into a woman's room), or the lover intimacy (in Kong and Nook's teasing on their love bed).
Unlike many other independent directors who often come up with weak performances of the actors, Kongdej knows how to control them and then for the first time Parinya Kwamwongwan can get over his psycho-looking image in Ahimsa and Four. This time he becomes a boyish, naughty young adult. First-time actor Aphichai Trakulkraiphadej gives us an ambiguous look between a man of simplicity and complexity. Sign of loneliness is smartly hidden into his plain eyes and look. Like the audience, Lek is confused about what happens around him. Chaibandit Peuchponsub's music helps us understand a sense of Lek's loneliness and conflicts of his fantasy.
While details are beautifully embroidered, an overall understanding might not be so. P -047 is hard to understand, in which even the lead actor Parinya Kwamwongwan also confessed it during the Thai premiere. My first viewing was in Nantes last November when I still suffered from a jetlag. So I could not really get the key point. The second time is much better. P-047 is a movie of all single interrelated elements, from the piano-playing hands of Lek and Kong, the shirts worn by Lek and a gay man, his copying service, the mother of Kong and Lek, to the last scene at the train station. Kongdej uses a lot symbols to signify what is in Lek's minds. You can't leave out even a single detail. With the broken narratives and an overabundance of sub-plots, P-047 then comes up with an unclear cause of Lek's syndrome. It could be only his psychopath or film addiction. Many parts of the movies are needed to be watched again to be defined.
Like the owning and borrowing theme of the movie, P-047 is often marked with references to the works of many other directors. In Nantes, one director told me that the film became a buzz for an award, in which he was quite disappointed due to the reference to a Kim Ki-Duk's film. I used to be a fan of his works, but haven't yet found it. Many writers also tried to find the connection with Apichatpong Weerasethakul in the bizarre shot in the hospital and a sensual combination in the jungle. Personally, the accusation is too naive. Now many Thai directors suffer from being labeled of Apichatpong's influence whenever their works have jungles or hospital scenes. Perhaps, P-047 cynically pays homage to this repetitious syndrome and fever of a filmmaker-in-crisis.