16 August 2013; AT5 = 1050 hours; total time = 1988 hours; TV = 346.5 hours
It’s been close to four weeks since I got back to Bangkok from my last trip, and my main accomplishment in Thai has been watching somewhat over 80 hours of Thai language video (unsubtitled, as usual). Though this included a few hours of movies and regular TV that I resorted to when my internet connection wasn’t being cooperative, it consisted for the most part of four lakorn: Borisud Bumbud Kaen (บริษัทบำบัดแค้น), Jam Leuy Ruk (จำเลยรัก), Gae Roy Ruk (แกะรอยรัก), and Maya Tawan (มายาตวัน). And then yesterday I started watching the 2010 version of Wanida (วนิดา), though I’ve only gotten a couple episodes into it.
My interest during all this waxed and waned, as did my understanding. I liked Jam Leuy Ruk best although, as with Sawan Bieng (สวรรค์เบี่ยง), got somewhat aggravated by the series’ refusal to delve into exactly what is going on with the heroine toward the end: doesn’t the story of a woman who ends up falling deeply in love with her tormenter and rapist practically cry out for some kind of account of how this could happen? Like, on a psychological and emotional level, what does So (the heroine) experience that she ends up going from being filled with fear, hatred and loathing for Harit (her attacker) to falling deeply in love with him?
Probably the answer is something along the lines of “love conquers all.” By convention, the hero and heroine must fall in love and nothing can stand in the way: neither external factors such as meddling parents, cunning and powerful rivals, or disparate socio-economic backgrounds; nor more internal factors such as their own ambivalent or negative feelings about each other, no matter how justified such feelings may be. It’s too bad though, because a believable psychological exploration of So’s change of heart could have been the most interesting part of the story; but maybe that’s too much to ask from a lakorn.
Nonetheless, Jam Leuy Ruk was very watchable from the get-go, and my interest really started picking up around episode five or so. In fact, it’s pretty typical that it takes about five episodes for a lakorn’s plot to really get going for me.
Borisud Bumbud Kaen was a difficult lakorn to watch. I felt fairly unengaged until episode seven or eight – about halfway through its fifteen-episode run. The second half ended up being satisfyingly entertaining, though. Why did I stick with it?
Partly because I’m used to things not really picking up steam for the first few episodes; partly because it had a couple actors who I’ve really liked in previous lakorns I’ve seen (Anne Thongprasom and Rawit Terdwong – the former again playing the tough but vulnerable heroine, the latter again cast as a villain who manages to somewhat redeem himself by the lakorn’s end). But I think I was also intrigued by the little I knew of the plot – in my list of lakorn for possible future viewing, I had noted simply “rom-revenge-drama w/ crazy plot.”
Well, the plot really was a crazy hodgepodge, as if the script writers were having a contest to see how many twists they could cram into a single lakorn. There were often multiple instances of: death (by accident, suicide, and murder), disfiguration, madness (real, feigned, and induced via medications and psychological manipulation), amnesia, infidelity, conspiracy, revenge…. There was one character who manifested three different personalities, while on the other hand there were three separate characters who, at different points in the story, assumed the same persona. It felt like Borisud Bumbud Kaen was always spinning off in some new direction, and the somewhat discontinuous nature of the plot may have made it harder to follow than other lakorn.
But it might also have been the case that the conspiracies and skullduggery were a little too elaborate for me to follow given my level of Thai (there were some seemingly key points to the plot involving business dealings that I never really understood).
However, a further very basic problem was probably that the only complete run of BBK that I could find on YouTube was of poor quality. The often distorted video made watching less enjoyable than it would otherwise have been; but the real problem may have been the audio, which often had a fuzzy or almost metallic edge to it. It felt like I was understanding a lot less of the dialogue than I usually do – a lot of what the characters said sounded blurry or indistinct – and this may very well have been due to the poor sound quality. (Though I had an experience similar to what I noted in my post on eavesdropping, in which even though the sound quality was poor, words that I am very familiar with tended to stand out very clearly). I kept hoping that the audio would improve, and it eventually did – either that or I just got used to it, or maybe simply stopped being so conscious of it when I my interest in the story finally picked up.
The other two lakorn were easier to watch but, in a way, more disappointing. Gae Roy Ruk (แกะรอยรัก), a murder mystery / ghost story, wore out my patience with what I thought was subpar acting and a plot that I progressively lost interest in: I cared less and less whodunit, and didn’t see why the heroine would care either. On the other hand, it was pretty watchable and I was able to zoom through the whole thing in just three or four days.
Maya Tawan (มายาตวัน) was also interesting enough to watch several hours a day and get through pretty quickly; but again, there were points in the latter part of its run where I felt my interest disengaging and, as with GRR, I thought the acting a bit weak.
Neither Maya Tawan nor Gae Roy Ruk were terrible, it’s just that I’ve seen better. On the other hand, I can’t ignore the fatigue factor: burn-out from watching too much lakorn. Also, although I still find lakorn enjoyable to watch, I also feel unfulfilled by a certain lack of realism on both the psychological and social levels. I also find myself missing something darker: stories that don’t necessarily end happily and protagonists who don’t necessarily remain heroic. Of the lakorn I’ve seen, I thought only Raeng Ngao (แรงเงา) was really willing to toy with some darker possibilities, but even so hewed to the genre’s conventions.
I’m enjoying Wanida so far. I’m guessing it’s set sometime in the 1930s to 1950s, and the most conspicuous thing about it so far, other than the period hairstyles, dress, and cars, is the lack of cell phones (landlines too, come to think of it: it seems that if you want to talk to somebody, you’ve got to drive over to their house and see if they’re home).
But Wanida is going to have to wait. I’ve got a train ticket stashed in my wallet. Later this morning at Hua Lamphong I’ll treat myself to a coffee before boarding a train and heading out of Bangkok – and away from the world of lakorn – for a while. I can already almost see the fields and provincial railway stations rolling past, and feel the weight of a book in my hands.