'Sisom' is the Thai word for the color orange, the color of the cowls, the color never used in secular activities. My film shows the dailiness of Buddhist monks in the wat and the temple monastery. We are witness to the distribution of meals, the shaving of scalps and eyebrows, a monk washing his bowl, a boat pulled out of water. These rites recall a history insistently borne into the future, the repeated gestures of prayer, instruction and conservation inscribing a circular time. In addition, details of their setting are enacted, sacral architectures, blowing lengths of fabric, plants and trees, smoking plumes and watery echoes of light.
Sisom (30 min 1995) opens with a montage whose extreme rapidity is more usually reserved for action pictures, but closes with images loosed from the moors of representation, nameless phantasms cast adrift. Intimations of this movement are already extant in the film's second movement, the scalp shave, which arrests the tempo of the opening via longer takes. And after a change in speed, a change in chroma--the riot of local colors bent to the rule of foreign manufactures, now made to depict reality in an unreliable way. The light reflections on the water appear slower, then run backwards. Real time disappears, giving way to the time of its representation. The apparent structures of the world, the face each presents as their own, begin to decompose, eventually eluding all definition. The ritual nature of gestures is underlined by repetition, but alienated through a progressive abstraction. Cast between the details of its architecture and tropical flora are people, indistinguishable now from their surrounds, increasingly lost in the substrate of the film's billowing surface, dissolved in smoke, joined with the treeline to re-enact an imaginary duality of dark and light. These unusual progressions stage a drama of decay whose apperceptions were first evidenced in a statement from the film's treatment--that Sisom is more interested in questions than answers.
The film makes extensive use of digital image processes, in order to more fully realize its theme of dissolution. The soundtrack is granted an equivalence throughout, created through synchronous recordings, random noise and compositional elements from the composer Makin Fung Bing Fai. Sound and image push one another, leading the film to a complete abandonment of reality.
Printed in MFJ No. 30/31 (Fall 1997) Deutschland/Interviews