A quiet and visceral look into the relationship of two men in a house devoid of soul and nurture, Mundane History shows just that: lives trapped in routine, bounded by secret aspirations told through dreams and soliloquy. Most of the action depends on the so-called desires of these two men. Ake, a boy paralyzed from the waist down, dreamt of becoming a director. Pun, the sleep-talking nurse tasked to look after Ake, wanted to become a writer, but ultimately settled in his current profession.
If not for my fault of steering clear of any material that talks about director Anocha Suwichakornpong’s movie prior to watching—with labels “art house” and “experimental” plastered all over, enough to make me think twice—I might have avoided it. But running at a modest 80 minutes, the film is neither boring nor overwhelming. Its deliberate slow-paced nature steers the humdrum lives of Ake and Pun through a non-linear manner of storytelling similar to Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati. Scenes involve jumping from one part of the characters’ relationship to another, but unlike Tarog’s, Mundane’s use of the style emphasizes just how monotonous Ake and Pun’s lives are. If not for the colors of the shirt they wear during specific parts, one might even view the film’s events as chronological.
But non-supporters of slow-paced movies (including myself) need not shy away from this. What Mundane lacks in tangible narration, it makes up for a powerful, intuitive atmosphere, especially when the audience is given access to the internal struggles of these characters. Thanks to the modest budget available during the shoot, the movie did not utilize well-known actors. A blessing, or else the movie would have felt more forcefully fabricated. Arkaney Cherkam provides a credible yet unassuming Pun, serving as representation of man’s rejection of solitude. Such is evident in a scene where he confesses to his wife how the people in the house are “soulless.” On the other hand, the brave Phakpoom Surapongsanuruk gets points for pushing the Thai ratings board with a controversial scene highlighting Ake’s desperation against the paralysis.
Ake and Pun, although physically different from each other, are merely two specks in a vast universe. It’s only fitting to conclude with a scene that rivals one from Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and it’s easy to admit I personally prefer Mundane’s—the meaning is more accessible and the presentation, less ostentatious. The scene that comes after that, a baby emerging from its mother’s womb via cesarean section, closes the deal. It is during these majestic movie moments where we experience a filmmaker’s commitment to his or her craft, and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History succeeds in showing life as it is, that the line between the unique and the ordinary has always been blurred. It is only our job to continue blurring the line, so Akes and Puns would continue getting along even in the most mundane circumstances.