Mysterious Object at Noon (Dokfa nai Meuman) (2003) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
|Stomp Visual||Starring||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.70:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.70:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
When I was a child, one of the highlights of our frequent camping trips was sitting around the fire when my father would kick-start one of his preposterous themes for a progressive story. He would begin some outlandish plot and each of us would take the story into wild diversions during our turn, attempting to make the thread more and more difficult for the next storyteller. I had no idea that this game had a name - "Exquisite Corpse" - but I certainly came to understand that the storylines deeply revealed the nature and dilemmas of the storytellers. And it is this revelatory nature of the game that director Apichatpong ("call me Joe") Weerasethakul has capitalised on in his film, Mysterious Object at Noon.
Using a second-hand 16mm camera on its last legs, Weerasethakul took to the streets of village Thailand, collecting the true life stories of locals and then embroiling them in a progressive story that begins with a disabled boy and his mysterious and enigmatic teacher. The result is a fascinating examination of Thai village culture and the power and truth of all stories - irrespective of whether their origins are in fact or fiction.
Driving around the crowded streets, the car radio blaring melodramatic advertisements for local soap operas, our first encounter is with a travelling fishmonger. Sitting quietly in the back of her van, she relates a heart-rending tale of her own tragic past. As she closes her story in quiet reverie, the director prompts her to tell him another story - either true or invented. She provides the basis of the story of the boy and the teacher, the themes mirroring her own yearnings and sense of loss. Next, the story as she has told it so far is dramatised, setting the basis for this film - cuts between live action examinations of the narrators and the unfolding of the story that they are creating. Weerasethakul used no professional performers for the fictional scenes - their only fee apparently comprising regular KFC meals - and this raw element works stunningly well in this context. The result is a seamless expression of "realness" in both the fictional and the documentary scenes of the film.
It's hard not to meditate on the power of stories in watching this film. The psychotherapist and philosopher Carl Jung had much to say about the truth of mythology and fiction. His theories on how archetypes express deep human truths is clearly in evidence here. Each plot turn and twist in the collective fiction reveals a symbology of truth for the narrator. The values and concerns of each storyteller imbue the fiction with their own personal truths. Whilst this makes the actual plot of the dramatised section rather haphazard, that is immaterial in light of the deeper story that it tells.
Mysterious Object at Noon is a fascinating social experiment, made even more endearing by its "handmade" production values. The use of fast black and white film in all sorts of ambient lighting conditions provides a canvas that is wildly flared in strong light, and the push from 16mm to 35mm for cinema screens results in a grainy image which is short on shadow detail. But this only furthers its appeal - the artifice of modern filmmaking is totally supplanted by the invented archetypes supplied by the characters. Their collective fictions create a wonderfully true portrait of Thai village life.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.70:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
This is an NTSC presentation and suffers the jitters that are common with this format, but it is less obvious in this production because of the low-tech production values of the source material. It is somewhat difficult to comment on the transfer quality of this disc, as the original stock is not conventional. However, there did not appear to be any glaring additional problems provided by the transfer itself.
Being a black and white film, colour palette is not a consideration. As previously mentioned, this is a 16mm film pushed to 35mm, and the film stock is a fast film that flares in highlights and provides an inherently grainy image. For this particular film though, this visual finish was actually an enhancement - providing a cinema verite experience.
There is some pulsing and aliasing evident but it may have been in the original stock. The subtitles are white and burnt into the image. They are occasionally difficult to read when they are overlaid on lighter pictures.
This disc is single sided with no layer change with which to contend.
There is one audio track on this DVD - Thai Dolby Digital 2.0.
The sound is rather tinny and sharp at times, but I would not lay the blame of that at the foot of the disc manufacturer. I suspect it is a faithful representation of its cinematic release quality. There are no audio sync problems.
There is no definitive score in this piece other than ambient music.
The audio does have some directional qualities.
There was no evidence of subwoofer activity.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is static and silent.
A brief discussion with Kent Lambert in 2002. One of the interesting facts was that the last scene was determined by the camera - it broke down irreparably!
Insightful background notes by film critic and Bangkok resident, Chuck Stephens.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This presentation is multi-region and appears to be the same release that is available on the US market, so that's all there is folks.
It may be a little bit challenging to settle into this unusual kind of storytelling, but once you are settled into its rhythm, it's a fascinating and intimate ride into the souls of these villagers as they examine their "exquisite corpse." A moving and fascinating expression of love, respect and human values.
|DVD||Singer SGD-001, using S-Video output|
|Display||Teac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Teac 5.1 integrated system|
|Speakers||Teac 5.1 integrated system|