Aditya Assarat (Thailand, 1972)
Wonderful Town (2007) is initially a gentle bittersweet tale of simple
lovers that turns into both a morbid thriller and even more morbid meditation
on the relationship between urban and rural morality.
For most of the film this is a love story, but the filmmaker cunningly
introduces the real themes in the background:
the resilience of the town to maintain its peaceful existence in
the face of natural disasters, the crucial role that the woman plays in her
family, the resentment and distrust that rural people feel for the big city,
the frustration of the townfolks in a town where there's nothing to do
When the film suddenly shifts gear and turns into quasi-horror, all these
understated themes bounce to the forefront.
The killing restores the peaceful plain existence of the town;
and perhaps the brother wants to make sure his sister will continue to live the
life she has lived, that relieves him of any obligation towards his son and his
Indirectly, the killers also pass some of the pain on to the city dwellers,
who don't know what it is like for the countryside to survive floods and
In fact the killing happens after we just learned that the city stranger was
not sincere in his love for the country girl.
The man we thought was a good man in search of the woman of his life and lover
of the peaceful country life turns out to be a miserable failed drunk who had
to run away from the city and simply wanted to have sex with a naive
Ton is a young architect assistant who arrives in a small town and takes a room
in a humble hotel. There seems to be no other customer as this is shortly after
a natural disaster that has killed many people. The project that he works on
is a new villa by the beach. Na runs the hotel. She is mostly shy and
silent, but a little curious about the new visitor. She is raising her
brother's son as if he were her own. Ton and Na slowly become friends.
He is single and lives alone, and is used to move from place to place,
and doesn't like the big city. She is a quiet and reserved girl, content
with her job at the hotel, and surprised that he likes the countryside because
everybody there wants to move to the big city. Eventually they have dinner
and he kisses her. She doesn't stop him but simply smiles and gets out of the
car. The following morning they confess to each other that they were sleepless
the whole night. They finally become lovers after a motorcycle trip.
She tells him that when she was a child that hotel was the biggest around,
before people developed the beaches. Then the hotel decayed and remained just
a cheap rest stop. She tells of when people died of malaria, and of a
great flood, and finally of the tsunami, but proudly comments that the town
always recovers. During a temple ceremony
her penniless brother Wit mentions that she has been seen with the stranger
and that the townfolks are gossiping.
Ton's car is broken into, and later a group of young motorcyclists rides by.
When Ton gives Na a ride, the motorcyclists surround the car.
Ton and Na don't exchange a word but it is clear that the kids are not happy
that a girl of the town is having an affair with a stranger from the city.
Na confronts her bother Wit, who still doesn't want to come home: he has
obviously been in trouble and something keeps him from returning to town.
Wit approaches Ton while Ton is taking a look at the family's destroyed
house. Wit confesses that he was a gangster and that he is useless to run
the hotel, and that Na has to do all the work.
Now Ton and Na's love has turned melancholy and even desperate, and, while
they embrace naked, we see the waves of the ocean (a reminder of the devastation
caused by the tsunami).
When he is alone, Ton calls a woman and starts crying while he explains that
he has changed, that he is no longer a drunk and no longer a musician: he is
clearly trying to repair his relationship with his former wife or girlfriend.
When he hangs up, he notices Na's brother Wit parked nearby and is suddenly
attacked by the motorcyclist punks. They beat him savagely and
Wit gets out of the car with a club to finish him.
Then they carry the corpse to the beach and dump him into the water.
Life resumes as normal, and we don't see any scene between sister and brother,
nor Na crying at all, just children playing on the rooftop of the hotel.