I have the privilege of owning a piece of video contraband here, and just finished watching it again to pass the time on a dull Thursday night. I purchased a copy of the movie “Anna and the King,” on my first trip to Singapore a few years ago, as it is a title you will not find in stores anywhere in Thailand. It was banned from being released and distributed here, and was even filmed in neighboring Malaysia, though the story centers around an interesting story in Thai history. I pulled it out last night, but didn’t get very far into the movie because it was just to late. So, i sat down a bit earlier and picked up watching it again as I’d not seen it in a while. I think it’s a great movie, with stunning cinematography, costumes, and a fine acting performance from Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.
Now, you might be wondering why if it was such a good movie, then why is it banned here, right? This very topic led to a disagreement here last night between me and he who must be obeyed so i’ll tread as carefully as possible to explain. The subject matter of the movie deals with a depiction of the life of the Thai royal family in the late 1800′s and how they employed a British teacher to educate the children and wives. The movie is a remake of the the original Broadway production of “The King and I,” which opened in New York City, 1951. I’ve seen snippets of the original movie as well, and it does portray the revered King in a negative light so i can understand why Thais would have a problem with it. It is forbidden by law in Thailand to say, do, or act negatively towards any member of the Royal family and they take this very very VERY seriously here. Sooo…..in my own good interest I’ve no more to say on “that” subject other than if you do a little research you will see the current King is a very good man, who has done so very much for the benefit of his people during his reign here.
Now, back to the movie. I must say that every time i watch this movie it warms my heart all over again towards the place I now have the privilege to call home. The characters in the film are very human, and the story is easily grasped and accepted by the western mind. I really like the “look” of the movie and the attention to detail that was given to sets and costumes. They even recreated an entire replica of the royal palace to be as accurate in the historical detail as possible. However, it was pointed out to me by someone I love last night why a movie like this doesn’t sit well with the local people here. When people from a foreign culture take the liberty of embellishing certain highly important aspects of Thai culture, it can be perceived as disrespectful if we add our own spin on things. I watched the movie again tonight with this in mind, and i can see it from their side. The actions of the character of Anna would see justified and logical in certain situations to a western mind, but to the eyes of a Thai person she would definitely seem criminally disrespectful. Furthermore, there seems to be some underlying implication of a subtle romance between Anna and the King which i think is wrong. So, I can see the other side of the issue and though the movie did take some creative liberties a bit to far, I still think it is a good film. It is neat to watch as a Thai period piece, as the names of the young characters in the film are the same names of some of the most prestigious University’s Thailand has to offer now in the present. The movie has a fabulous score and soundtrack and reminds me of the rich history this country has to offer. It helps to serve as a gentle reminder as to why i first fell in love with this crazy place years ago. If you haven’t seen it, get yourself a copy.
Here’s hoping everyone has had a productive week, and if not…the weekend is a day away! Till next time!