REEL ASIAN 2011: ETERNITY Review

It is Thai belief that souls of the dead return to the place they once cherished in life. As Eternity opens we see an older Wit riding throughout the countryside. As he comes upon places firmly planted in his memories we then see the younger Wit who has brought his girlfriend Koi to his rural childhood home. He hopes to marry her and that he can convince her that life in the country is better than life back in Bangkok. Just as his spirit roams the countryside he too takes her to all his favorite and memorable spots, each with a story to tell. The final chapter of Eternity catches up with Koi and her two children, life after Wit has passed on, but still in the hope that he is there with her in spirit. 

It is no wonder that a first time director who was an assistant to great Thai directors like Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng should deliver a debut film of the same tranquil caliber, more so after the latter. And if Sivaroj Kongsakul cites Apichatpong Weerasethakul as an influence as well I would not be surprised either. Quiet, meditative, deliberate; Eternity is in no rush to tell its love story. As Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century was a love letter to his own parents so is Eternity to Kongsakul's. It shares the same spirit, energy and pacing. The only difference of course is Kongsakul's film is about the memories of a spirit. But it very much has the same vibe and tone. Together with his DoP Umpornpol Yugala they shoot some stunning imagery over the course of the film, barely moving the camera, as if afraid to miss a moment of the story as it unfolds. And depending on how your would interpret their choice of perspective and framing so much of the film is shoot from a distance and the characters almost never facing the camera, as if we were Wit looking back upon these times, a silent observer, listening in. 

Eternity is a tribute to Kongsakul's father who passed away when he was a child. What he knows of his father was told to him by his mother, herself a schoolteacher. This is as close as one can get to autobiographical without outright saying it. But in doing so Kongsakul has crafted a stunning drama. It's tranquility and silence may prove a challenge to some but for those already familiar with the works of the other Thai arthouse directors before him, those who watch Kongsakul's film will find it rewarding and hopeful.   

Eternity screens Sunday November 13 @ 1:30 PM @ THE ROYAL
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