Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Legend of Suriyothai

(Thailand, 2001)

Wow! What an epic! A cast of tens of thousands, hundreds of painted war elephants, beheadings, and enough skullduggery to make Lady MacBeth queasy. This is a history of a critical time in Siam, around the 1500s, and frankly it’s hard to get really involved in the story. It is a glimpse of a life-style so ritualized that it makes the court of Louis the Sun King look like anarchy. It reminded me of Indonesian shadow-puppet epics, which can go on all day and all night and are full of action such as “Lord This battled with Lord that, and they battled and battled and battled …” But it is incredibly beautiful, filmed in and around real Thai palaces on a scale you seldom see anymore. Awesome numbers of soldiers and elephants clash, blood flows in buckets, and in between everything is golden and solemn. Bangkok has more palaces than Los Angeles has gas stations, and they are all incredible, even the ones I only saw from the canals. This film seems to have shot in most of them. Worth seeing just for the pageantry.