Syndrome and a Century (2006)

Syndrome and a Century (2006)

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Syndrome and a Century is not his most well known film but an interesting film to watch. This film went through a lot of problems with the Thai censorship laws. It raises the question of what is the standard for Thai censorship. The original film was hold back by the Thai censorship department for the inappropriate content in the film. The inappropriate scenes that they talk about are neither contain violence nor sex but very common issue like a monk playing a guitar or a doctors kiss in a private area.

The reasons for the censorship might not be that hard to understand. What the Thai censorship department tried to do is to protect the image of Thailand. They see the film as an intention to destroy Thai image, that why they censored them. But what they did not understand is that the film itself doesn’t have that kind of intention at all. One thing of the misunderstanding is that the film itself doesn’t have a straight forward narrative technique and people found it hard to understand. That is way people have difference interpretation.

Like his previous film Tropical Malady(2004), this film is divided into two part, city and rural. The events and actors in both parts are almost the same. It is almost like it wants to compare between both locations. The actors are in their same role such as doctor, monk and dentist. However, they are all behaving differently in different location due to the difference atmosphere.

Therefore, I think this film wants to compare the difference in behavior of a same group of people but in a different location, which are in the city and rural area in Thailand. How people would react and how the society would judge differently. For example, people in the rural area seem to more easy going than people in city. People in rural area are more close together. We see a doctor walks out the room in the middle her discussion with patients to ask her money back from a guy who look like a security guard. Or the scene where the dentist sings for the monk while checking up his teeth. Those situations never happen in the city. In the city, there are no conversation between them.

Moreover, the location setting also difference. In rural, the hospital seem more in the open space with trees in the background. Unlike in city, where we don’t see anything except dull hospital wall.

The scene that I like the most is the scene in the city where the doctor are drinking in the room and performing the supernatural healing power from the sun called “Jakra”. At one point in the scene, the camera slowly dolly in as they performing. It is funny to see these doctors believing in such a thing. Then one of the doctors turns to the camera and look straight at the audience. The camera then dolly back until she turns to continue the conversation. I felt immediately guilty that I judged them. The supernatural power might real, you never know. And if this situation happens in the rural area, I might not judge them like the way I judge the city people.

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