The second edition of the THIS Buddhist Film Festival continues to feature a series of films centered around Buddhist themes, and The Outrage by director M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul fits right into the programming with his Rashomon inspired tale of truth and deceit, unraveling a mystery told through eyewitness accounts, which naturally comes with human failings and perceptions. The story itself is based upon a play called The Gate of the Ghost by one of Thailand's renowned writers MR Kukrit Pramoj, which got adapted from Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, so the film is quite the centennial celebration of these two great personalities.
M.L. Pundhevanop reunites with most of his cast from his previous film Eternity, bringing back the likes of Ananda Everingham, Chermarn Boonyasak. Mario Maurer and Pongpat Wachirabunjong, amongst others, to craft a story that's bookended by the tale of a monk (Maurer) who is contemplating disrobing from the order en route to visiting his father. As we are told, he's one of the best at understanding the Buddhist percepts, but what he's about to encounter, will challenge his beliefs and faith, and perhaps factor into his consideration whether the temple would serve as a better place for refuge and continue his seeking of enlightenment to make sense of the senselessness experienced in the world.
And this experience centers upon a mystery murder of a warlord (Ananda Everingham), whose body is found by a woodcutter (Petchtai Wongkamiao), who reports it to the local police, in turn arresting the notorious and most wanted bandit (Dom Hetrakul) in 16th century of Thai's Lanna period. But all is not what it seems, as it involves the whereabouts of the warlord's wife (Laila Boonyasak) during the alleged crime of rape cum murder, and the roles each of the eyewitnesses play, whether directly or indirectly involved. Each person provides a different commentary of what they had seen and heard, and The Outrage becomes a fascinating investigation and quest for the truth.
Anyone who had seen Rashomon, or any of the variants in films that get inspired from the rather fractured narrative, flashback and interpretations of the truth, whether relying on bad memory, half truths, or even versions that gets set to glorify oneself or one's actions, would know what is coming and expected in the movie. But even then, there's nothing short of gripping moments that The Outrage is filled with, because with each retelling from a different personality, or perspective, adds to the richness of the tale, and examination into the basic selfish human psyche. Everyone paints the perfect picture of oneself in their narration to an open court, and the half truths that you're required to sift through for, is that part of the storytelling that makes the back story so rich, there's enough room to watch it all over again despite having to know the outcome.
The costumes, sets, and production values are nothing short of being lavishly top notch, where the filmmakers didn't scrimp in order to allow for some eye popping visuals, of landscapes and scenarios set both indoors in a cavern, and the vast outdoors in the jungle, or against the backdrop of a raging waterfall where the crime purportedly took place. While the cast put on stunning performances playing the same characters, but from different perspectives portray different emotions and behaviours, such as Dom Hetrakul's Singkam, who may either be the fearless bandit based on reputation, or a cowardly opportunist, it is Chermarn Boonyasak who excelled in her role that ranged from helpless victim, to cunning manipulator, that sees her at her best. And you can't help but feel the nagging suspicion that the only key woman in the story happened to hold all the cards as to what really transpired.
Things aren't always what they seem, and part of the fun, and in a certain fashion, the horror of knowing the extent of evil man, or woman, can do, is in watching it all come together, with the clash of value systems, perception, and the interpretation of truth, especially how it can be influenced so easily and take on a different form altogether. I suppose in this world it's hard to tell black and white, and shades of grey are the norm and reality. Recommended, as films styled after Rashomon always have something up its sleeve to surprise and provoke.