Wonderful Town Review
Aditya Assarat’s slow-moving Thai romance with an undercurrent of menace predates Kornél Mundruczó’s Delta, but there are similarities there in the film’s themes and metaphorical treatment. Wonderful Town however is rather more understated than the Hungarian film director’s sometimes overwrought symbolism, which is certainly suited to the film’s purpose and is ultimately its strength, but it is so low-key that it could almost by-pass the viewer entirely.
On the surface and certainly for the first part of the film, Wonderful Town plays out as a low-key romance between Ton, an architect from Bangkok working on a building project on the beaches in the south of Thailand, and Na, the maid at the cheap hotel in a small in-land country village where he is staying for the 2-months duration of the project. It’s all mild flirtation and mutual unspoken attraction against the remarkable and wild background of a tropical paradise that would remind one of In The Mood For Love, but for the fact that there are no inhibiting factors from their romance taking place but their own shyness. Despite the almost idyllic background however, there is an edge of menace, a threat hanging over them, initially starting with gossip from the locals, but soon taking the form of more direct confrontations.
Even more so than Delta, the power of nature is all around and its force plays a major part in the film. Despite some imagery in the opening sequences of the film, it’s not until much later that an oblique reference to “the incident” – the tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake that swept through the Thai resorts in 2004 – that things start to fall into place, the desolate houses, the sense of them being haunted, the reconstruction, the underlying anger at the losses and the devastation eventually rising to the surface in a manner that gives the impression, a powerful one, that life in those places affected by the “incident” is suspended in a state of tension and incomprehension, their fate lying between the last wave and the next.
The Disc: The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer on Soda Picture’s Region 2 DVD release looks fine for the most part, but it’s clearly not sourced from a High Definition master. The image is very soft – not to the extent that it is fuzzy, but never showing any real sharpness. Colour detail is also compromised slightly, but the tones are strong nevertheless, accurately representing the tone, look and feel of the film. There are no significant marks on the print and macroblocking artefacts are minimised, the film even managing to present dark night-time scenes reasonably well, but for one scene that shows up low-level noise. The audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 and generally fine, giving adequate tone and clarity to the dialogue and the fine musical score, but a surround mix would surely have been more effective. English subtitles are optional in a smallish font with a slightly off-white-tending-towards-yellow tint, but they are generally fine and readable throughout. There are no extra features, so the single-layer DVD5 disc is more than sufficient here.