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Film director Anocha Suwichakornpong on Mundane History

Sunday 23 January 2011, by Abla Kandalaft

Anocha answers our questions following the screening of Mundane History, which premiered at the Paris Film Festival in July 2010.

Why the title?

The title in English represents a contrast between something trivial (mundane) and something bigger, eventful and more unique (history) and translates the way this quite mundane situation, that happens to an individual involves much larger dynamics. It is a microcosm if you like of the dynamics at play in Thai society today. The various structures and social classes are represented by the various characters (father/head, the servant, the son and son). The Thai title is The Sparrow. Sparrows are very common in Thailand, they are dismissed and overlooked, they are mundane. In fact, etymologically, the word sparrow has the same root as another word meaning trivial, which is often used as a dismissive critique of someone.

There are many references to the political situation in Thai society today. Was this part of your inspiration for making the film?

Yes. It can be seen as a metaphor for the events taking place in Thailand. The idea blossomed a couple of years ago when the Thai group the Yellow Shirts became prominent. They were a novel force to be reckoned with and really took politics to the street. The resulting political landscape inspired the tension and conflicts between the characters. The film is all about cycles of life and death, of constellations, which symbolise the cyclical pattern of Thai modern politics, where a coup takes place on average every fifteen years.

Can you elaborate on the particular, non-linear structure of the film?

When we started putting the story together it was linear. The decisions over the unusual structure too place in the editing room. We had the luxury of time to finish the film so we decided to play around with that. We noticed there was a repetitive element to it that stemmed from the repetitive routine of the disabled protagonist’s daily existence so we decided to use that to break up the rhythm.

Sounds and noises seem to hold a large place in the film (footsteps, birds chirping etc). Is there a particular reason for this? Could you elaborate on the choice of soundtrack?

Indeed, Ake is disabled, his life is very static so everyday noises take a lot of importance, they constitute his world. There are many layers to the soundtrack. I didn’t want it to just accompany the plot and the images, I wanted it to take a life of it’s own. The piece played during the supernova scene is from Malaysian band Furniture. My editor had recommended it because he felt that it had the same loop-like structure as the film, the sound of the melody grows and grows and explodes. I saw it as fitting for that particular scene.

Read the review in Big Screen.

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