If Krabi 2562 fails to convince by its end, its argument is at least worth engaging with.
Following a short film collaboration for the 2018 Thai Biennale — the first of its kind — Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong and London-based artist Ben Rivers went on to direct Krabi, 2562, a feature-film expansion of the ideas explored in their previous collaboration. Taking its title from a popular tourist destination in Thailand, as well as the current year of the Thai Buddhist Calendar, the film lies at the crossroads of both filmmakers’ interests, exploring the potential pitfalls of both ethnography and tourist-trap gawking. Krabi, 2562 initially follows a location scout who visits the eponymous region, and includes digressions to a chintzy commercial shoot with a popular movie star. But as in Anocha’s 2016 breakout By the TIme It Gets Dark, there’s not so much a causal narrative as a collection of disparate scenes. Variations on a theme, then — at times bewildering, irritating, but mostly pleasant, with fulsome 16mm detail and at least a few striking compositions. (A static, spelean shot of an abandoned cinema screen distinguishes itself from the bunch.)
At one point titled “In the Holocene,” the film freely enfolds the entirety of this geological age — so there are digressions to cave-dwellers and the first signs of amphibian life, separated from scenes of present-day tourists milling about Krabi’s sandy shores by the most casual of cuts. If the film’s structure eventually comes to feel somewhat arbitrary, this, one could say, is the film’s very point: A critique of a flattening, touristic purview achieved by means of an irresolvable puzzle comprised of compelling pieces. Intentional incoherence is always something of a dubious proposition, but even if Krabi, 2562 fails to convince by the end, the argument, at least, is worth engaging with.
You can stream Anocha Suwichakornpong & Ben River’s Krabi, 2562 on Mubi beginning on July 30.
Originally published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 7: Wavelengths Program.