It’s difficult to precisely put your finger on exactly what Krabi, 2562 actually is. It’s directed by British experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers (who made his debut back in 2011 with the prize-winning Two Years At Sea) and fellow Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong, whose work has already been the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. If this sounds like a heavyweight combination, Krabi, 2562 feels anything but. Sprightly in execution and tone, it’s also a deeply mysterious film.
This brings us back to the question of what Krabi, 2562 is. Set around the Thai province, it is part travelogue, part ethnographical quest, as it floats amiably between documentary and fiction. Early on, after the camera trains on a group of schoolchildren singing a hymn to the King of Thailand, we are made au fait with impact this particular area of the country has made on popular culture. Close by is “James Bond island”, as one local puts it – referring to where The Man with the Golden Gun was shot. So is Phi Phi, made famous twenty years ago by Danny Boyle’s film The Beach.
But Krabi, 2562 is no tourist’s eye view of Thailand, despite the fact a film crew is seen on the beach shooting a soft drink commercial. At one point, inexplicably, the narrative cuts to a prehistoric caveman secreted in a cave, chewing on his roasted meat. Other elements see the introduction of a projectionist – Lieng Leelatiwanon – who shows us the dilapidated cinema where he first learnt how to use the equipment. He fondly recalls how – on the very first day it opened – the theatre unspooled films for 24 hours straight.
A film of fragments, one that insists on shielding its secrets, what emerges is a curious exploration of ancient folklore and tradition. Feeling like a companion to the work of Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Cannes-winning director of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, there is something of the same spirituality to be found here. Right now, in lockdown, Krabi, 2562 also evokes a feeling of nostalgia – to a faraway paradise that is tantalizingly out of reach.
Krabi 2562 is available to stream on Mubi. For more details, click here.