Warsaw 2013 Review: THREE MARKS OF EXISTENCE, A Feel-Good, Spiritual Crowd-Pleaser From Thailand

Patryk Czekaj, Contributing Writer
Given the complex and deeply philosophical nature of the religious notion hidden behind the title of the film, Three Marks of Existence willfully dwells on the topic of reincarnation, kharma, and the difference between 'I' and 'mine', among other curious concepts that emerged along with the birth of Buddhism some thousands of years ago. Though the film revolves around a meaningful journey, it doesn't focus on finding the truth so much as it concentrates on the main character's heartwarming, hilarious adventures and his overall perception of the events that occur on the path to enlightenment, so to say.

The main character of the story is M (Yossawat Sittiwong), a recent college graduate, whose life has been spiraling out of control lately, due to some job and heart related problems. Then one day he decides to borrow a huge sum of money from his mom, take his backpack and set off on a journey to major Buddhist sites in India. He doesn't understand that yet but his search for that previously undiscovered inner self will be a like a wild rollercoaster ride that merges both an Anderson-esque style of indie comedy and a deeper, more figurative meaning to its comfortable lightheartedness.

M's first encounter is probably the most contemplative of all. He meets an aging Thai man who devoted his life to meditation, which he uses as a form of communication with his dead daughter. M, laid back person that he is, tries really hard to comprehend the higher sense of it all, but all of his more serious thoughts immediately go away with the arrival of a pretty and somewhat mysterious Japanese girl, Yuiko (Kobayashi Ayako). At first only trying to impress her, M unknowingly dives into the fascinating world of Buddhism. While in awe, he thanks heaven for sending Yuiko right to his hotel's doorstep, but the appreciation for kharma slightly drops right after she introduces M to a handsome and rich Thai named Jen (Patchrakul Jungsakul), their new companion. Thus the storyline shows M's more sneaky and jealous side, and foreshadows a perfect initiation of the most laughable part of the movie.

M's concern with the whole trip is washed away when he finally gets Yuiko all to himself, but by the time he starts enjoying the days they spend together, she disappears, leaving M heartbroken and longing for home he so abruptly left behind. Even though he goes back, it's not the end of this spiritually perplexing story, it's more of a beginning of the real search for the meaning of life in a climax that makes for one of the more bizarre, cheesy-looking, sarcastic yet totally relevant dream sequences ever.

There are a couple of wonderfully ridiculous scenes that somehow remind of the American indie comedies both in their visual style and quirky sense of humor, but the gags and characters' behavior is decidedly fresher and all the more unconventional. It's like the authors drew inspiration from many Western pictures but gave it a more personal touch improved by some noteworthy cultural flavors, spicing it up a little with a wonderful soundtrack composed of various catchy songs. It's probably worth noting that Three Marks of Existence is Gunparwitt Phuwadolwisid's feature debut, thus it's rather safe to assume that he's an adequate addition to the list of directors to watch in years to come.
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