- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
For his directorial debut, Vanishing Point (2015), Thai filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong created an impressionistic interrogation of a moment of trauma from his own family history — the devastating car accident that left his father bedridden for life and his mother scarred and consigned as her spouse’s nurse. In his second feature, Anatomy of Time, the 38-year-old filmmaker trains his art house reveries on the sacrifices of just such a mother, while also imagining the life she might have had.
“It’s not a biographical film about all of the particulars of her life,” Nilthamrong says. “It’s more just inspired by what I was seeing and thinking about as I grew up.”
Anatomy of Time unfurls in two narrative strands, one set in the present day, as a late middle-aged woman (Thaveeratana Leelanuja) cares for her ailing, bed-bound husband, who is revealed to be a disgraced former military commander accused of committing atrocities during Thailand’s communist insurgency in the late 1960s and ’70s. The other strand leaps deep into the woman’s youth in the Thai countryside (here the character is played by Prapamonton Eiamchan), where she’s raised by her philosophical father, a clockmaker, and courted by two very different young men: one a gentle rickshaw driver, the other an ambitious, violent man she ends up marrying.
“As I was growing up, the accident my parents had experienced had already happened before I was around, so I just always saw my mother taking care of my dad,” Nilthamrong explains. “Later, I became really curious about how she decided to accept this kind of suffering, of just taking care of her husband for all those years.”
The director says peering into an imagined version of his mother’s past also appealed to him because so few Thai youth have any curiosity, or knowledge, of the tumultuous and painful political history many of their parents endured.
“To me, it didn’t even seem that my parents loved each other anymore, but they were kind of stuck in the marriage,” he adds. “So I was curious what this kind of endurance gives her, whether some sort of knowledge or enlightened — it must be something. It was also an interesting way to reflect on what the whole country has gone through.”
For the many scenes that take place at the military commander’s bedside, with his wife devotedly ministering by his side, Nilthamrong and his team set-dressed and filmed the interiors of his own mother’s current home. Many of the sequences of the past, by contrast, take place in stunning natural settings in rural Thailand, an environment that proved advantageous to creating a period version of the country without splashing out exorbitantly on set design. “We mostly had to focus on the cars and the costumes,” Nilthamrong says.
As the film loops back and forth between the two threads — at times proceeding with an orderly plot, at others seeming to follow more of a dream logic — the story’s elliptical structure comes to serve as something like Nilthamrong’s personal treatise on the nature of time in lived experience: less a progression of points on a timeline, more like a medium, or duration, cut through by memory, that we simply seem to swim within.
What his mother will make of the tumultuous life he imagined for her movie analog, Nilthamrong says he isn’t sure. His mother hasn’t seen the film yet.
“I think she’ll enjoy seeing it, because we shot in her own house so much,” he says. “She may not grasp everything in the film, but she will see something in it, and she will translate it in her own way.”
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sept. 2 daily issue at the Venice International Film Festival.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day