By Oris Aigbokhaevbolo
At some point in Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s Vanishing Point, one of two men whose lives are partially depicted narrates a story relayed to him by a friend. Sometime after border guards and 'terrorists' agree to a truce, the friend – himself a border guard – finds himself picking eggplants from the same tree as a 'terrorist'. They stare at one another then leave. A few days later, they return and exchange 'porn books'.
On one level, this story typifies the possibility of masculine camaraderie stimulated by the bodies of women. It also signifies the similarities between people who on the surface are different. Nilthamrong’s second feature is concerned mostly with the latter notion.
But before this theme is pursued, an autobiographical moment opens the film, as photos of an accident involving the director’s parents appear onscreen as though part of a character’s collection of photos. Nilthamrong’s mother survived the crash. His father wasn’t so lucky. Disabled and unable to progress in the military, Nilthamrong says, "his future stopped there."
A sad event, yet some morbid comedy ensues. Laughing, the director recalls that, when he was five, someone put clippings of the crash as reported in the papers in his room. For years, he woke up to the image. A drawing of one of the clipping is used on Vanishing Point’s poster. His mother saw it recently and remarked, "that looks familiar...".
Although rich, that history is tangential to the film. Vanishing Point relates parallel stories about two men from different generations, both unnamed and apparently dissimilar, but flawed in the same way. The younger man, introduced at a crime scene, is clearly an idealist, his belief in probity so strong that his insistence on due process leads the police to demand he step away. Later, he is seen patronising a prostitute – so this epitome of rightness is himself far from righteous. The older man is a factory owner. A dour man disconnected from his family, he springs into talkative sentience in the presence of his mistress. By the end of the film, we realise that both lives may or may not be connected by the film’s opening scene.
So how did Nilthamrong come to inhabit the mind of a much older character? "It is projection," he says. The character was borne of age-related pondering: "People in my generation – what do they want to be?" And so Vanishing Point exists as documentation, examination and self-projection, thinly disguised as deflection.
Vanishing Point by Jakrawal Nilthamrong
Winner Hivos Tiger Award