The Legend of Suriyothai

"Weak"

The Legend of Suriyothai Review


While it may be true that this historical epic covers a particularly dramatic and significant time in Thailand during the 16th century, when the country's very survival was in question, The Legend of Suriyothai attempts to cover so much of it that the dramatic effect becomes too diffuse to be engaging. There is, however, much to admire, and history buffs, Thais, and the art crowd might support it with some attendance at the box office. The rest of us will do well to wait for a TV release where it would be an ideal PBS entry.

It starts with great appeal, in the person of young Suriyothai (Pimolrat Pisolyabutras), a princess of the ruling dynasty whose love for young Lord Piren is as obvious as it is returned in full. But, before we go thinking that this is going to be a love story, the reality is thrust upon us (and her) that she's been betrothed to Tien, the son of King Atitaya, a marriage with significant political importance. Her acceptance of this match, instead of going with her heart, will be the first of many sacrifices she makes for her country, culminating in her final act.

While various royal families ruled over a peaceful and prosperous Thailand during this period, the Burmese were making hostile moves, venturing beyond the borders. Such belligerent incursions were a constant threat across the span of many years, bringing about skirmishes and war, with each of the kings and generals rushing out to meet the challenges while queens and consorts of the royal court plotted for every advantage. It was a bloody business of intrigue and power plays.

The movie presents considerable spectacle and pageantry, the palace rooms aglitter with an art director's and set decorator's flair for the golden trappings of royalty. The period costuming is equally stunning, but the real standouts in the visual department are the faces. This is a beautiful cast and, while the vying interests and exact relationships might prove daunting at times, the characters come through. Shining above all of them is Pimolrat Pisolyabutras (the young Suriyothai), an actress of such sparkling personality that she sets up an expectation the film never satisfies. I pine to see her in a film that's more hospitable to a mainstream perspective and hope that her appearance here causes an American producer to become aware of her potential.

The events depicted culminate in the grand set piece, the battle with the king of Burma in 1548, but the war footage disappoints, at times consisting of cuts that represent the kind of combat one might expect in this era rather than creating the level of visceral realism that has become expected in sword to sword clashes.

Executive producer Francis Ford Coppola is also credited as co-editor (along with director Chatri Chalerm Yukol), an unusual technical tie to the material when executive producers are generally names on the masthead. I think that speaks well for Coppola's involvement in something with -- face it -- limited commercial potential. To a western audience, the movie comes off as more of a textbook documentation of events than the kind of story that involves you with an endangered hero, heroine, or even nation. Despite many elements that elicit interest, its 142 minute length becomes draining on the enchantment factor.

Director Yukol (Out of the Dark, Doctor Karn) is a prince of the Thai royal family who was educated at UCLA in Los Angeles. The Legend of Suriyothai was originally released in Thailand in 2001 and broke all box office records there. It is not destined to do the same in the U.S.

Aka Suriyothai.

Sure, just sit there while we do all the work!



The Legend of Suriyothai

Facts and Figures

Run time: 142 mins

In Theaters: Friday 17th August 2001

Box Office USA: $0.3M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 29

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer:

Starring: M.L. Piyapas Bhirombhakdi as Queen Suriyothai, Sarunyu Wongkrachang as King Mahachakrepat, as Lord Pirenthorathep, as Lord Warawongsa, as Lady Srisudachan, Sinjai Plengpanit as Lady Srichulalak

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