Friday, April 14, 2006

[SIFF'06] Promise Me Not (International Premiere)

I orginally wanted to watch this Thai movie, then changed my mind for some commercial flick, then reversed my decision yet again. Thankfully, I did not regret watching this movie at all. It's a pretty interesting tale, though not one that is necessarily original in presentation, but still enjoyable nonetheless.

Be careful when you make promises, especially to the other half that you'll love each other forever, and that for your next lives you'll want to be man and wife again. Forever is a very long time, and in a cruel twist of Fate, you could end up endless lifetimes searching for the other half, even though you think you're meant for each other.

The introductory shot suggested a horror film (you know, of the pontianak variety), before the story behind the lovers Pong and Fah unveils for the very first time. Being a dancer/servant girl, Fah chances a meeting with Pong, a rich aristocrat's son, who's being betrothed to another (quite pretty leh) girl. Seeking to end their lives and begin a new one in which they can hopefully meet again, Fah's suicide was successful, but Pong survived the ordeal, and Fah begins to haunt their family, thinking Pong did not keep his end of the bargain. As it turned out, Pong suffered from amnesia during the botched suicide attempt. It ended on a bittersweet note, though most of this segment was entrenched in comedy with fake mediums and unscary scares played primarily for laughs.

The second story is a bit of a "broke-back" (sorry, had to use the term). I guess audiences are expecting to see the same actors take on their roles in a different timeline, but as we discover, it turns out that most of the characters in the different timelines are played by different actors, just to keep you guessing who's actually who. And for a while, it's pretty entertaining as you try your hand figuring out who's who with a blind guy, and a slightly deaf guy. I bet you'll be lost, especially at the beginning, but the subplot of a lottery would keep you entertained until the main plot finds its way again.

The last story is perhaps the most beautifully shot, set in a familiar V-for-Vendetta like environment where a fascist government rules. It plays on man's desire for beautiful women (and I say this chick here's a pretty lady), as Pong seeks out his true love Fah according to spells casted by an astrologist. But things go awry when the wrong spell is given, thereby violating what is written in the stars. This segment is perhaps the most predictable of the lot, but for its eye-candy, it's probably the most enjoyable.

If you count the current storyline where Pong is recounting his weird dreams of his past lives to his psychologist, then yes, there could be a fourth storyline, though its screentime is a lot less, more to serve as a filler between segments. I won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say that what transpires on screen towards the end, is one heck of a surprise, in terms of the premise.

Running through all the threads is a constant - that of the psychologist, whose ancestors were all fortune tellers / psychics. Inevitably, his and his ancestors lives get intertwined with the lovers' as he/they try and assist the two of them to be together, but inevitably provided much comic relief.

It's a bit of everything in the movie. Love, life, vows, horror, comedy, all rolled into one. The execution might be a bit raw, the pacing sometimes uneven, and some effects suffered from a relatively low budget. But it's still provided for madcap, campy fun, which at certain portions of the film, lapses into the usual predictability.

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