Nang Nak Movie Review
Or else what? Ghosts, that's what. Thais love a good ghost story, and one of their all-time favorites, Nang Nak, arrives on screen via the talented hand of Nonzee Nimibutr, one of a small group of up-and-coming Thai directors who are making a small splash on the international scene.
Set in lovely and languid 19th-century Siam, Nang Nak is the simple but chilling tale of two gorgeous young newlyweds, Nak (Intira Jaroenpura) and Mak (Winai Kraibutr), who run into some very bad luck. Nak is pregnant and glowing when Mak is called away from their canal-side house on stilts to fight in one of the many wars that Siam always seemed to be fighting to keep out foreign invaders. He's badly injured, and while he recuperates in a monastery, Nak gives birth. Eventually Mak is well enough to paddle his little boat home where he's welcomed once again into Nak's loving embrace. His new son is beautiful. The end.
But wait a sec... there's a small problem: Nak is actually dead. Flashbacks show us that she and the baby died during a particularly gruesome childbirth disaster, and Mak is now living with her lovely ghost. Soon the neighbors are warily approaching Mak and asking to have a word with him, but he won't listen and lashes out violently at anyone who suggests that Nak is a ghost. Nak simply tells him the neighbors don't like her and have been spreading terrible rumors about her. She also starts killing anyone who puts doubts in Mak's mind.
When all the killing starts to get out of hand, the local monks call for a Thai-style exorcism (burn down the house, dig up the body, cut it up, etc.). Maybe Mak will let them do it. Maybe he won't.
Like Ghost, Nang Nak is terribly romantic, positing the theory that true love can't be interrupted by something as insignificant as death. The Buddhist spin, however, is that Nak must move on and be reincarnated. By sticking around, she's putting many people's karma in danger.
Kraibutr and Jaroenpura are elegant and fervent as the doomed young lovers. I'd rather watch them than Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore any day. Director Nimibutr lays on lots of misty atmosphere and spooky thunderstorms. Nang Nak is a fun trip to another place, another time, and another mind set.
Looks alive to me.