The Overture (2005)
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Critic Reviews for The Overture
If you don't mind a bit of treacle in your cinematic cultural-exchange program, The Overture will warm you inside and out.
A by-the-numbers, simple tale that pulls out all the cliched melodramatic stops when it should be exploring an obviously fascinating character in Thai history.
The film probably loses some of its effect when it is brought to a Western culture, but it is still captivating.
Audience Reviews for The Overture
good historical drama from thailand gr8 music i liked this one. Released in North America under the title The Overture, Hoam Rong was inspired by the true-life story of Thai musician Luang Pradit Phairao.
The Roots of a Tree One of these days, I will tally up how many languages I've seen films in. There are all the obvious ones, of course--no one who is truly a film buff has not seen movies in French, Italian, and Japanese. German, Swedish, and Spanish are also pretty important. Various languages of China and India. Russian, of course. And then, as you get further into it, there are single films in various languages that are of note. There is [i]Z[/i], in Greek, for example. You also strike mines of popular movies, like the rich wealth of odd Korean films. There are movies like [i]El Norte[/i], which are not just in English and Spanish but in Quiché, the indigenous language of parts of Guatemala. And then, as you explore further and further into film, you get yesterday's film, in Hebrew, and today's film, in Thai. Heck, I think one of the best family films I've ever seen was in Mongolian. This is not merely a film in Thai, either. This is the story of one of Thailand's most notable musicians. In the movie, he is called Sorn Silapabanleng (Anuchit Sapanpong as a young man and Adul Dulyarat as an old one). He was one of those people who simply had to play music, even when he wasn't supposed to. The story moves back and forth between the events that made him the most famous musician of the traditional piphat style and the events of the 1940s, after the abolition of the monarchy. Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsonghkhram (not appearing in this film) was trying to modernize the country, and one of the ways he was doing so was legislating against old-fashioned things, like musical styles and even specific instruments. Sorn was a symbol, and the modernizing government was eager to use him. However, he wasn't interested in being used. He is not shown as having any particular attachment to the monarchy, despite having been a musician in the court of King Chulalongkorn (Sompob Benjathikul), but he was devoted to the music. There were several attempts in the twentieth century--and, indeed, many even older--to legislate modernization. These seldom turn out well. For one thing, you just drive whatever it is underground. (Well, except when you require men to shave beards. It's hard to have underground beards.) For another, Sorn is right when he says that a tree needs roots, and tradition is the roots of the tree. There's a lovely scene wherein Sorn and his son are playing together. The son has brought a piano into the house, and Sorn is playing his beloved ranad-ek. The music they make together is neither traditionally Thai nor modern and Western; it is something new, different, and beautiful. It's the synthesis of the two, creating something new. This is a better way of doing things, in which we allow the past to be a part of the future. There are plenty of things from the past which can be disposed of, but the way forward is not rejecting things just because they are old. To be honest, I have no familiarity with traditional Thai music. I wasn't able to hear some of the differences that people with more awareness of the style would have been able to; I'm not entirely sure how one person's playing of a percussion instrument is more "romantic" than another's, though that's the adjective that keeps getting used. However, just by watching the way the instrument is played, I can tell that it takes considerable skill to do it really well. There's a lot of focus on wrist strength, and Sorn even practices using chains around his wrists in one scene. He helps a girl carry some bundles, and when she finds out who he is, she immediately feels guilty about risking his wrists. I've never really played a percussion instrument myself, aside from a brief stint at cymbals in my junior high school marching band, but this is more complicated than just pounding on a drum. This is, from what I can tell, the most important instrument in this style, and Sorn is a virtuoso. That said, I'm not all that clear on the title. It's not just that I don't know if piphat even uses the concept of the overture. What's more, I don't think this is the overture of a man's life. I guess we do get that; there are some scenes of Sorn as a child. However, what we're really doing is flipping back and forth between the first and fourth movements. This is him as a young man; this is him as an old man. This is him rising in the style of music that he eventually came to represent; this is him fighting for that style of music over the drive toward modernization. I didn't feel the movie was put together as well as it might have been, but no more did I feel that it was really the beginning to anything. I was struck by the musical sequences despite knowing essentially nothing about the traditional music, but the story itself mostly came across as disjointed and unsure of itself. I think I was supposed to know who some of the people were, and I didn't. The problem with regional movies going to an international audience, I suppose.
Pretty good. Worth a look if you have any interest in some nice Thai visuals, creative (slightly overdone) cinematography, Asian culture, musical talent, etc. It was kind of confusing how it jumped between time periods so often. Pay attention in the beginning so you'll know when it's doing this. Some parts of this remind me of Karate Kid, but the competition is xylophone rather than Karate.
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