Something magical is in the air. Times are happy and love is uncomplicated for young soldier Keng and country boy Tong. Pleasant evenings with Tong's family, song-filled nights in town... Then life is disrupted by a disappearance. And some kind of wild beast has been slaughtering cows. Local legends say a human can somehow be transformed into another creature... Then begins a tale of a soldier who goes alone into the heart of the jungle, where myth is often real.
I believe we all have this malady. We become attached to certain things, especially to the beauty of our own species. I presented similar ideas in BLISSFULLY YOURS. But this time it seems like this attachment has escalated to the point of being a malady. We are at one point in life suffocated by beautiful memories of our loved ones. The lovers in TROPICAL MALADY become suffocated by their love because it is so right, so natural.
Like in my previous film, I shot TROPICAL MALADY in the jungles of northeastern Thailand. The jungle is used as one of the main characters. I wanted to revisit the same place and see it differently. When I am in the jungle, I see the vast arena of life. It's a very different life with different rules. I don't think I'll ever truly understand the animal world. But I borrow their landscapes to present the film's "malady" and suffocating world that is somehow not human either.
My sound man went into the jungle at night and brought back incredible sounds. He encountered a bear, a herd of elephants. But I couldn't use all of the sounds. Otherwise the film would have become a showcase of sound effects. I just wanted to give the audience a feel for the special sounds of the jungle without being too conscious about how peculiar they are.
Even though the story is presented in a linear structure, TROPICAL MALADY has two distinct stories that represent two very different worlds. However, these two territories are linked by characters that the audience can interpret as the same or not. What's essential are the memories. Memories from the first part validate the second part. Just as the second part validates the first. Neither exists wholly without the other.
AN EXTENSION OF MY MEMORIES
My films are an extension of my memories. I even try to include the memories of making the films themselves into my films. I try to capture what I have experienced. While shooting, I also try to capture some of the awkward moments the actors feel in front of the camera. For example, the way the actor who plays the soldier looks at the camera during the opening credits. I sometimes even put pressure on the actors to get the result I want.