Your neighbours want your land and you could fight them off, if only your family could stop fighting themselves. In Ayothaya, these are the circumstances that force Suriyothai to become a legend. Behind every legendary man is a legendary woman, but what makes a legend comes down to one question: Do you seek glory or salvation?
The Legend of Suriyothai, directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol, is an epic spanning 20 years, from 1528 to 1549. Centering on a young Ayothayian princess in the country of Isam who eventually becomes the queen, this movie encompasses a lot more then just time--its themes, central characters and more shift throughout the movie.
This movie is filled with plenty of lineage issues and these issues bog the movie down with an arduous ascension to the throne. Putting all the players in place takes a good half of the movie and then some.
Personal issues are still the same, despite the cultural setting. Romances are handled simply, but poetically, and could easily be a romance for any culture and any age.
Boy is related (loosely) to girl, girl falls in love, girl is forced to marry another, both find new lives in their new positions, girl gets in trouble, boy returns to save her. Romantic, isn't it?
Though this movie's story transcends cultural boundaries, and has lessons that are important for any age, my personal favorite is Suriyothai's struggle with what she desires, and what she sees as her duty. Rules are there for reasons, even if we may not always see them. We may despise them and bend them slightly, but to break them altogether is usually not good. Although her heroic, rebellious ambition takes on a more practical application later, Suriyothai learns this lesson well in the beginning.
All in all, if you are willing to sit through over two hours of sub-titles and foreign rituals, there is a classic story under it all I think we can all relate to in some way.
The Legend of Suriyothai opens at the Uptown Stage and Screen on Fri., Sept. 19.