Muen and Rid – Amdaeng Muen Kab Nai Rid
|Director: Cherd SongsriProduction Company: Five Star Productions/Cherdchai Productions
Year of Production: 1994
Directed by Cherd Songsri, one of the finest craftsmen in Thai cinema, the film is shot in Cherd’s typically rich and ornate style, evoking the Thailand of the mid 19th century, including within it carefully researched examples of traditional peasant song and dance, and even also devotional verses – and also, by implication, Cherd’s own observations on Thai character and values, and on human passion. The film stars Jintara Sukaphat, known abroad for her performance in Good Morning Vietnam.This stirring and beautiful film set in 19th Century Thailand tells the story of the forthright and discerning Amdaeng Muen, a Thai peasant woman who rejects an arranged marriage and eventually escapes and seeks refuge in another village with the parents of a young Buddhist monk (Nai Rid) who early in the film has rescued her when she nearly drowns in a river, and who has subsequently taught her to read and write. Under Thai law at the time, parents could give away or sell their children. Pursued by her contracted fiancée, the wealthy owner of a Buddha foundry, Muen eventually brings her case for judgement before the King. Based on a true story, the film celebrates an early case of a struggle for women’s rights in Thailand, which resulted in a decree promulgated by King Mongkut (Rama 1V) in December 1865.
Cherd Songsri first came to prominence with his film The Scar (1978), a tragic story of the fated love of two peasants, set the 1930s, and which broke box office records for a Thai film. “Some Thai critics see Cherd as promoting just the image of Thailand that Westerners want to see – an exotic, traditional Eastern society. But to be fair it must be said that Cherd himself would see his repeated attempts to create a sense of traditional, often rural, pre-modern, Thailand, as an important work of cultural resistance, an attempt to delineate the Thai personality and its basis in rural life and rural traditions, and to examine the importance of Buddhism as not only a religion, but as an element significantly shaping Thai character” (Anchalee Chaiworaporn in Film in South East Asia, Views from the Region (ed. David Hanan, SEAPAVAA and the Vietnam Film Institute, Hanoi 2001) p. 153.
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