Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Unseeable เปนชู้กับผี

Pen Choo Kub Pee (The Unseeable)

Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng

Starring Suporntip Chuangrangsri, Tassawan Seneewongse, Siraphan Wattanajinda

"All seeable things are alike; each unseeable thing is unseeable in its own way." - Leo Tolstoy

Old-fashioned fear is organic in the hands of flashy Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng. Organic like reflex memory, the groaning shadows and fleeting shapes of things that go bump in the dark that make your heart skip a beat. Organic like cautionary tales, cob-webbed ghouls and pale, clawed hands that pull you into the darkness when you've been disobedient. Organic like love, the heart of darkness that pushes us to do foolish things that later come back. Oh, and do they come back.

The Unseeable is thick with ghosts, so thick it's impossible not to beathe in the dusty, musty smells of locked closets and abandoned rooms heavy with beauty. And of course, secrets. The attention to detail poured over to recreate the romantic 1930s is obssesive compulsive accurate. The looming high roofs, the ornate doors and tapestry, the grandly spacious rooms that echo the glory of Hollywood, a nostalgic lushness that at first seduces a young pregnant woman, Nualjin (Siraphun Wattanajinda), who is in search of temporary lodging while she looks for her missing husband. Madame Somchit, played with Gothic glee by Tassawan Seneewongse, is the grim caretaker who sternly forbids any trips to the main house where the mysterious widow, Runjuan (Supornthip Choungrangsee) lives.

The labyrinthine gardens and hallways beckon Nualjin out of her room and into the maddeningly crowded night. With only a low-burning oil lamp throwing, stretching, and distorting shadows, the unseeable surfaces.

There is macabre magic at work in Wisit Sasanatieng's frames. The ghosts are barely visible; glimpses above Nualjin's shoulder, a pale hand reaching out for moldy offerings from the mouth of a jar or a thorny shrub, a half naked man sitting on the roof, crawling down the walls---blink and you miss it. But if you do see it---them---the shivers go down the spine like mad.

Scripted by Kongkiat Khomsiri who also wrote Art of the Devil II, The Unseeable reveals itself like a mystery-thriller with bits and pieces of flashback that get less and less scary as it reaches the end, a twist that is not much of a surprise but still deftly, err, executed. What the script lacks in sophistication Sasanatieng makes up for with dazzlingly claustrophobic camera pans and a precise eye for capturing the slightest ghostly gesture, which has made the unseeable desperation and montrosity of a past that haunts deliriously cinematic.

Old-fashioned fear is organic, the haunted houses of our youth that we occassionaly visit in our nightmares. Organic like the quickening of the pulse when the street lights go out and we are walking alone in the dark. Organic like a lamp burning out. Organic like not turning off the lights after watching The Unseeable.


  • Stumbled upon Leo Tolstoy quote here, SEED Magazine article on Dark matter.
  • More photos and a review here, Coffee Coffee and More Coffee.

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