Time cannot be stopped. With each successive heartbeat, with each successive movement of the hands of the clock, in an inexorable rhythm, the next cycle, subjected to the laws of nature and history – great and small – is coming to an end. By placing the individual in a greater context, throwing his heroes right into the rushing current of time and nature, Jakrawal Nilthamrong, in his Anatomy of Time, observes the inexorable passing of life.
Although the Thai director seemingly tells the complicated history of his native country, he manages to create a completely universal movie. The history of Thailand is merely a subtle backdrop, delicately resonating in the lives of the characters, as if the viewer’s perspective were more like a nature’s gaze, for which human lives are only a blink of an eye. And at the same time, it is precisely in that fleeting moment of one heartbeat and gaze reaching the semi-wild, beautiful landscape that extraordinary poetry and great love lie – for the country and for the people.
The micro-history of the main character, Maem, is intertwined with Thailand’s history, Maem’s story is what binds the viewers. An uncertain youth turns into an old age full of grief, when life appears as an unlucky series of events that prevents from making the decision of choosing a right life partner. But even tragedies that destroy all plans and foretell a sad, lonely end in a world that ceases to be familiar, inscribed in the context of nature, older than the oldest and remembering the most distant times, seem beautiful.
Although the story is tragic, the Thai director approaches it with the tenderness of a caring son. The son of his country, but also the son who is aware of being only a part, the fleeting pollen of a greater whole, the universe. What’s unique about Anatomy of Time is that Nilthamrong does not abuse his directorial power. He remains patient, like a leaning tree that has grown on barren rocks, appearing in many scenes in the movie. He looks both into the memory of the war tumult and youth, as well as into the modern time, in which lost battles are fought only inside people.
The artist’s patience pays off, because it results in a perfectly balanced film, being in the golden mean between different worlds: personal and historical, individual, human and the world of nature. After all, what is the experience of being human? Nilthamrong seems to answer: transience, repetition of human life cycles, heartbeat, movement of the hands of the clock. Time cannot be stopped.