By the Time It Gets Dark Screen 88 of 17 reviews

By the Time It Gets Dark

2016

By the Time It Gets Dark Poster
  • Suwichakornpong confidently defies conventional forms and linearity, embracing the cryptic nature of her various intersecting narrative threads. She collapses the past into the present as a way to probe the haunted recesses of both national and personal memory.

  • By the Time It Gets Dark, a repeatedly self-immolating work, is a browbeating interrogation of the constant and necessary deceits of the filmmaking apparatus, particularly when applied to the challenge of filming history—it elicits the viewer’s confidence and credulity time and again, even seems to dupe itself, but in the end it just _has_ to lie to you.

  • On one level, By the Time It Gets Dark rehearses a familiar inquiry into the ethical dilemmas involving the cinematic re-creation of reality, a consistent preoccupation of self-reflexive cinema. But the film’s textures and syntax are so strange and alluring that Suwichakornpong’s film becomes far more than the sum of its disparate parts.

  • The movie gets strange — or at least almost late-Godardian. Suwichakornpong fractures what's already threadbare, crafting a kind of lyrical fugue about Thai modernity and the fraught possibility of evoking it on film... In the end, it literally dissolves and reconstitutes in a cataract of pixels. You could be forgiven for thinking that while all this is going on, nothing at all seems to happen — it's a film, a rather gorgeous one, of glances and ephemera and delicate metaphors.

  • The film’s overall destabilizing effect speaks to the sheer impossibility of fully capturing a historical moment or person. As the protest leader remarks, ‘I’m not living history. I’m a survivor.’ An eerie remark, perhaps reminding us that, given Thailand’s political climate, with its legacy of prolonged strife, corruption and suppressed protests... we can’t be sure its tormented ghosts are actually being heard.

  • Suwichakornpong earnestly and ambitiously attempts to redefine cinema's conventional grasp of consciousness, in which we often follow characters through a seemingly preordained narrative structure. Like any young artist, she leans on the work of her elders, particularly in the film's nevertheless visionary second half.

  • Mysterious, soft spoken, and incessantly beautiful, Anocha’s multi-pronged multi-voiced multi-genred text shows how it’s precise, quiet observation that plumbs the deepest. Politics and repression, leisure, and labour, history and pop style: this film’s breathtakingly wide scope seems effortless.

  • The movie is a swirl of startling, sensuously rendered transitions, identities sliding among characters, fictions cracking open to reveal still more fictions within. This film marks only Suwichakornpong’s second feature, but it already suggests a heady iconoclast snooping out profound points of exchange between the possibilities of narration through images and the politics of memory.

  • Suwichakornpong subtly uses fragmented images, identity slippage and ellipsis to dig for the core of contemporary Thai experience and ask profound questions about how memory, politics and cinema intersect. You’ll be lucky to find a more ambitious or enthralling work of cinema in this year’s festival.

  • The extradiegetic digital freak-out at film’s end foregrounds the constructedness of all images, but what’s still more remarkable is Suwichakornpong’s willingness to abdicate a certain kind of logic and directorial control in favor of a strangely intuitive, even random rethinking of narrative and historiography, taking up and discarding concepts and plot threads for which, even for the filmmaker, there may be no clear explanation.

  • As a humanistic portrait of ordinary people linked together by a turbulent history, By the Time It Gets Dark follows in the same path as the works of Thai directors Weerasethakul, Assarat, and Ratanaruang; but Suwichakornpong expands this idea to the fullest extent. Moving from country roads to expressways, and through photographs, films, and dreams, its many narratives converge into an Odyssean reflection on the effects of a single moment on the lives of many, even those who do not remember.

  • Suwichakornpong doesn’t quite have the same architectural precision that allows Weerasethakul’s cinema to veer off into bizarre territory while retaining a coherent shape. Nonetheless, it’s an elegant look at modern Thailand, and a wonderfully ambitious piece of filmmaking.

  • It is a maddening task to try to get By The Time It Gets Dark straight; just as you think you've grasped it, it will switch up its pace, intentionally malfunction, repeat a scene with different actors, or cut to footage from another movie.

  • As in other recent Thai cinema, the dizzying arc of rural life to the modern city helps negotiate the history the film is at pains to approach. The film grows perhaps too challengingly dispersive by the end, but does so largely by dint of its considerable ambition.

  • To call what happens in By the Time It Gets Dark a “plot” is to do it a disservice of sorts, such is the beguilingly self-reflexive nature of Anocha Suwichakornpong’s becalmed, trippy, historically conscious fungus of a film. That the film strays from its central conceit is a gambit that Suwichakornpong handles with an elastic but formally cohesive schema of detours, longeurs, and non-sequiturs.

  • Although By the Time It Gets Dark‘s perpetual transitions could easily feel jarring, Suwichakornpong handles them so intuitively that they unfold with rhythmic finesse, while the film’s ever-shifting form is actually the perfect vehicle for exploring her subject matter.

  • The new feature from Thai iconoclast Anocha Suwichakornpong (Mundane History) is precisely the kind of complex, shape-shifting art film that TIFF's Wavelengths section was made for. If By the Time It Gets Dark doesn't really come together as a coherent artistic statement—and I contend that it does not—it is ultimately because Anocha's ambition gets the better of her.

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