By the Time It Gets Dark
June 18, 2017
This mesmerising second feature from Thai film-maker Anocha Suwichakornpong, writer/director of 2009’s Mundane History, is a kaleidoscopic meditation on the shifting relationship between past and present, truth and fiction, movies and memory. [...] By the Time It Gets Dark is a dizzying, dazzling work — elliptically political, frequently perplexing, yet fluid enough in its possibilities to allow each viewer to divine their own meanings from its quicksilver forms.
BBC 5 LIVE
June 16, 2017
This fascinating, enigmatic feature confidently leaps down the conceptual rabbit hole to mix a historic massacre with transcendent forests and telekinesis. Suwichakornpong keeps you off balance with shroom-fuelled fantasy and Lynchian departures. By the Time It Gets Dark is an engrossingly strange, confident leap down the conceptual rabbit hole, and a very accomplished piece of film-making.
Lies, All Lies
April 14, 2017
By the Time It Gets Dark is, sporadically, a brilliant work, and also an unrepeatable performance, a dead-end of sorts, something that the film’s finale seems aware of. The movie doesn’t end so much as self-destruct in a hail of digital noise that bridges a final, bravura leap from a packed dance floor to a bucolic landscape whose purple sky gradually shades from pink to blue, a last reminder of the contrivance of the cinematic apparatus, for even the self-evident truth that the sky is blue is only true if the technicians conspire for it to be so.
By the Time It Gets Dark [is] a significant advance for Suwichakornpong; it’s more ambitious, more surprising, more formally supple. It’s also crammed with discreet but magnificent grace notes — like the abrupt sound cut from a supermarket cash register to the intense chirping of crickets in which much of the film is steeped. More than anything, Suwichakornpong’s film is Godardian —underneath its ostensibly calm surface, a film of abrasive ruptures that itself goes supernova at the end.
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, By the Time It Gets Dark 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.
New Directors New Films 2017
March 15, 2017
By the Time It Gets Dark’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.
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.
By the Time It Gets Dark 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.
It seems we’re in for a slow-burning philosophical enquiry into how history is framed and represented, but then things take a curious turn. 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.
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 — the Thammasat University massacre of 1976, here “re-enacted” by a well-intentioned director trying to make a film about one of its leading activists — is a gambit that Suwichakornpong handles with an elastic but formally cohesive schema of detours, longeurs, and non-sequiturs.
Even the pixel will become, someday, pastoral.
It’s a film that paints a flawed, enduring image of modernity, of Thailand as a country in a lengthy process of negotiation with its past, and of its increasingly globalised place in the world. The various attempts at connection, tethers of intimacy, and yearning for meaning create a potent image of broader human experience.
Mundane History was by any measure a self-assured and decidedly unique debut, however the conceptual steps forward in vision, scope, pacing, and coherence marked in By the Time it Gets Dark are phenomenal.
Occasionally dizzying, By the Time it Gets Dark is never didactic and through her bold approach to the medium Anocha Suwichakornpong offers audiences a thrilling glimpse of the possibilities of cinema.
From this premise, By The Time It Gets Dark branches off in many directions, its elliptical journey employing a variety of filmmaking styles to create a provocative treatise on memory, politics and cinema.
To watch Anocha Suwichakornpong’s By the Time It Gets Dark is to journey through a world where the boundaries of time and space do not exist. Suwichakornpong’s style — established by her short Graceland (2007) and her debut feature Mundane History (2009), which premiered at Rotterdam — embodies this vision by collaging different mediums and leaving narrative gaps in her stories to the imagination. But this does not mean that she is only concerned with the metaphysical. Rather, Suwichakornpong’s films elevate the ethereality of the physical, human world, as her cosmic imagery intertwines with the relationships between strangers, friends, lovers, families, citizens, and governments.
The only tangible link between these glittering narrative shards is the figure of the waitress, who pops up toiling away in the background of almost every new setting, an ordinary figure entrusted with gluing together an extraordinary film.
In a country where massacres don’t enter the history books and past and present remain locked in a stagnant embrace, perhaps a filmmaker’s only possible response is to calmly sift through all the many ways of depicting the status quo before realizing that none of them are truly adequate. For all cinema’s beautiful manifestations, it can never quite capture history’s unruly backward flow.
This is a cinema that is far from the idea of the documentary (and from the misunderstanding of the objective documentarist); a cinema that exalts its proper essence: imagination.
In a way, the stories evaporate and we find ourselves constantly going in and out of them, in and out the present narration, in and out the different films. Thus, film and time share this incompleteness as they are made from the same suggestive material; for both, it is a question of projection.
At its beating heart is Thailand's political history, especially the Oct 6, 1976, massacre of students at Thammasat University; Anocha's attempt to revisit this dark chapter of national history — one threatened as much to be repeated as it is to be forgotten, which is even worse — is couched in a meta-narrative about a documentary film-maker and her subject, a student activist who's now a middle-aged woman.
From there, film within a film within a film becomes a life within a life. By The Time It Gets Dark is not an easy film to wrap your head around, but the feeling of loss, doubt and suffocated hope is right there.
Paris-based sales company Luxbox has acquired world sales rights to By The Time It Gets Dark, the second feature by Thai director-writer-producer Anocha Suwichakornpong, who impressed with her 2009 debut Mundane History.
Mixing “reality and dreams” and “different layers of time and space,” Suwichakornpong questions the possibility of “making nowadays a historical film about an untold chapter in the history of her country,” Moretti and Zardi said in a statement, adding they were “impressed by the poetry of her ode to cinema.”