Short Film Review: Bangkok Department (2020)

In the midst of looming structures and dimly lit alleys, the film follows two individuals in their attempts at finding connections whilst struggling with feelings of alienation amidst the cold and distant urban sprawl. Their bodies move with uncertainty, awkward and repetitive, as they stumble through the usual process of getting to know someone new. Conversations circle around the topic of economic progress and the personal loss felt as a consequence. Bangkok Department, directed by Nuttawat Attasawat, is filled with establishing shots of the different places in Thailand and the melancholic air surrounding these spaces as well as the people within them. While looking back at what used to be, the film also moves forward with the possibility of new connections, giving heart to a story that is plagued with the woes of progress.  

The film follows two individuals after a meet-cute scenario at a carpark. Their encounter is light-hearted and natural, the guy freaking out over a massive rat while the girl, undisturbed and amused, giggles at his reaction. He follows her and attempts to explain with an obvious lie that he was not afraid of the rat but rather, afraid of killing it. This good-natured exchange is however, tinged with a certain gloominess, with the muted glare of the LED lights and empty lots that seem to stretch on for miles.  This sets the tone for their subsequent interactions, awkward, cute, but always with a sense of loss.  

However, there is a hope that is consistent throughout the film. It portrays a modern and realistic take of the overused meet-cute trope. One scene, in particular, is where music plays and the two slowly come together in a dance. It is drenched with the sort of sweetness that derives from cliches yet at the same time, an excitement. The two individuals slowly come together, their hands mere inches away from each other, an 'almost', an anticipation. And it is in that moment that they form a connection, even for just the duration of a song. 

The tone of the film constantly shifts from realistic worries of modernity to fantasy-like scenes that come straight out of a rom-com. As if saying that even under the looming structures that plague us, there is a sweetness to be found in small moments, like a head leaning on your shoulder, or someone waiting for a bus with you.  

The was last screened at the Vesuvius International Film Festival in June. 

Review by Joyce Ng

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