Thailand, and the tourist region of Krabi, where the schoolchildren are instructed to say the pledge of their nation and sing the anthem to their King as part of their curriculum. But what of the picturesque areas, such as the plentiful beaches which attract so many visitors and supply the local economy with funds? One location researcher (Siraphun Wattanajinda) is investigating the place in the hopes of developing a more personal project, for her parents are from around there, and she joins a tour guide (Primrin Puarat) as she tells her of the history and legends of the beaches and temples there. But what if the dim and distant past were closer than she could have imagined and existed in close conjunction with the present she is experiencing?
Part documentary, part quiet fiction, this hybrid could appear to Western eyes like a travelogue with fancy bits and bobs added to generate some kind of vague storyline as it took a location familiar in places from Hollywood movies like the James Bond entry The Man with the Golden Gun or the Danny Boyle-Leonardo DiCaprio would-be blockbuster The Beach and added a layer of unifying mysticism. This would either prove so airy-fairy in its concept, and indeed too insubstantial to those not already familiar with this part of the world, that the casual viewer would struggle to get all the way through it, or cast a delicate spell that exploited the curiosity the more dedicated viewer would entertain about societies and sites that were not in their own backyards.
Undoubtedly there was an abundance of shots of this Krabi region, and you did see more than the movies of a more mainstream bent would have shown, such as the interior of a closed down cinema auditorium that is now home to flocks of birds and bats which swirl around in front of the huge screen. Oftentimes it's enough just to see the natural world as it existed there, some of it more attractive than others, but nevertheless containing what to outsiders would be a mysterious and alien quality the two directors, Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong, were enthusiastic about underlining, be that with those lush and at times stark visuals, or with the dialogue in both the interview and more dramatic sections. That's dramatic as in staged, not white-knuckle ride level exciting.
In amidst the scenes of the researcher learning more about the origins of her parents and by extension, her own origins too, we would be served up the occasional eccentricity that was geared to show off the wide variety of experience that went into making life in Krabi as it was lived at the point this was shot. And not only then, as we were given shots of Neanderthals every so often to offer, in 2001: A Space Odyssey style, the sense of history that went into making a place such as this exist by spanning many thousands of years. Did this succeed? It certainly gave the proceedings their own distinctive atmosphere, but you did get the impression the makers were less interested in attracting tourists to the islands and shorelines than they were capturing something of the ambience of the place that such tourists would not necessarily pick up on - a couple of Americans we see come across as oblivious to the spiritual aspect of the land they are visiting. A relaxing watch, then, but weirdly nonspecific about being specific. There's no music, simply sounds of nature.