‘Khu Kam’ or ‘Sunset At Chaophraya’ is a love story of a Thai girl named ‘Angsumalin’ who was also a member of ‘Free Thai Movement’ (a Thai underground group of activists working against Imperial Japan) and a Japanese navy officer named ‘Kobori’ during World War II. Their love walked in the opposite directions with their duties.
Surprising in many ways.
After the release of the trailer, I kept hearing about how interesting this movie was, especially, the impressive Japanese accent of the character ‘Kobori’ played by Nadech Kugimiya a Thai superstar, as well as, the tone in the film that was pretty much like a Korean romantic film. However, after the official premiere of this most recent movie version directed by Kittikorn Liasirikun AKA Leo Kittikorn, all I heard was the influx of negative opinions and comments; for examples, many of ‘must-have’ elements were missing and the character of Angsumalin was not like what they expected. Still, I found myself some time to experience it with my own eyes and, finally, understand why.
First of all, I have to say that I personally like the interpretation from the director including his courage to select only key elements and emphasize them on screen. So, before you think my opinions are not consistent with the others and stop reading this review immediately. I would like to bring in some background information into this review for your consideration.
A story well known by Thai people.
‘Khu Kam’ is one of the greatest Thai romance novels of Thommayanti. Based on the popularity of it, it has been adapted and made into movies, TV series, including a musical play for almost 30 years. So, I bet you ask any of your friends about this novel, they will, at least, be able to share some information; for instance, who the writer is, what the story is about or even who played the main characters in different versions of movie or TV series. Therefore, I am quite certain that most of the Thai audience must have had watched one or two previous versions before coming to a cinema and, of course, had expected to see their favorite scenes (Angsumaling plays Khim-a traditional Thai musical instrument) or elements in this version such as a cork tree (Lumpoo Tree) and fireflies, etc. Another factor to consider is the fact that this is an almost-800-page novel, it, hence, is very hard for any directors to put every of those touching moments into this two-hour movie. Unlike the TV series version which is showing at the moment and can present what the audience expects without any time constrains, it is unavoidable these two would be compared.
Al tough the story is maybe hard to grasp, it has enough elements to satisfy.
Now, what about the audience with no background of this novel? Is it still worth to watch? My answer is “Yes”. I think the situation like this happened before when ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ was released in 2004. Unlike the first two episodes of the movie series, the director-Alfonso Cuarón– decided to select only the key elements and put them in his film. The results were that the big fans of the novel did not like the film because their expected scenes were deleted while the moviegoers were quite impressed with the vision and interpretation of the director. As I said, in Khu Kam, I admire the courage of leaving many of the memorable details in the novel behind and focusing on the main idea of the love of a young couple during the time of war. According to the director’s interview, he would like to show how love between a boy and a girl could occur despite the war and the differences of nationalities and political beliefs2. As a result, the audience would be fulfilled with the romance of the main characters Kobori (Nadech Kugimiya) and Angsumalin (Amarawadee Decabales) so much that the audience might not understand the surrounding situations; for example, why Kobori is attacked in the middle of the night, how Angsumalin becomes a member of Free Thai Movement, and why she helps an American fugitive escape from the German army.
Superstar ‘Nadech’ lifts the film to the second level.
Another applause went to Nadech Kugimiya for the sincerity in his portrayal of the protagonist Kobori. Apart from his pleasant look and his impressive Japanese accent, he was convincing as a Japanese navy officer who tries really hard to win a Thai girl’s heart although it means he has to ignore his duty which, for a Japanese man, means the betrayal of dignity. For Amarawadee Decabales, I think it was the director’s intention to make this character look like as she seems on the screen but it did not seem what the audience had in mind. However, I think she did a good job for taking this complicated role at her age.
To conclude, I think this is an interesting adaptation of the novel. If you are looking for a Thai drama/romance movie with good-looking main actors and impressive ending scene, I would like to recommend you watch this one.
By Jeff Chappell.