Saturday, July 28, 2007

Last Life in the Universe

Another film…another time…another space… Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s film deals with an introvert, obsessive compulsive Japanese, Kenji, who is working as a librarian in the Cultural Centre of Japanese Embassy in Bangkok. The film starts with Kenji reflecting in voice-over about the total absence of motivation for his desire to end his life. At the same time, he meticulously arranges the set for his latest attempt. We see a noose hanging in the passageway, so that his body can be discovered easily, a pile of books to stand on and to kick out finally under his feet. But this sincere attempt goes awry as the doorbell starts ringing incessantly. Opening the door, Kenji is greeted by his smart-aleck brother, a crude-mannered yakuja. He is now trying to hide from his mob boss after getting into some trouble with him. The disturbed Kenji returns back to his daily chores and goes back to his office. That day, in the library, he briefly catches the sight of a girl browsing through the racks. He is overwhelmed by her presence, her attire of a school-girl. But after a momentary meeting of glances, Kenji looses the sight of the girl. That very evening, while he is contemplating about another fresh attempt of suicide, jumping from a bridge, the girl emerges again, this time from a car, after an animated quarrel with her sister. The girl is hit by a passing car and, injured badly, admitted to a hospital. Kenji also accompanies the mentally-devastated sister, Noi, to the hospital. Few days later, there is a shoot-out at Kenji’s meticulously arranged flat. On that same day Noi comes to his office to give him his bag which he has left in the hospital. Kenji, reluctant to go back to his flat, pervaded by stench and decay, clings to Noi and goes to her house. Then their fates start to get intermingled.
The beautifully crafted film is an attempt to portray the seclusion and alienation that the modern man faces in the claustrophobic cityscape. Kenji embodies the humane attempt to reach out, to connect which, at the end, probably fails. The whimsical and childlike presence of Noi, in contrast with Kenji’s meticulously ordered self, depicts the yearning to break free from the order of things, from logic, from the overtly predictable existence and probably from the inescapable grip of destiny. This futile attempt is surrounded by brutality, by violence, by death…
The film has some unforgettable moments, woven by the director in surrealistic manner, some inherent and carefully maintained ambiguity, interchangeable presence of Noi and her wounded sister in the house, the erotically charged atmosphere within the house, a book called “The Last Lizard in the Universe”, a possible identity of Kenji as a yakuja himself, and an unforgettable ending which is, probably, not the ending but actually the starting point towards understanding the film, the text…

4 comments:

Heathcliff Ranting... said...

Just brilliant.....

BOIPOKA said...

what?? The film?? yes, it is, really...

The none said...

ammo dekhbo :-(

Heathcliff Ranting... said...

the film.. no doubt.. tor lekha tao. :)