Kiles is a unique type of filem in Cambodia these days. It was enjoyable to watch.
I was happy having spent 90 minutes immersed in scenes from Cambodia’s past.
Perhaps you have heard stories about life in Cambodia during French colonization. Maybe you are even an expert on the period, but I’m certainly not. Hoping to learn more about postWorld War II Cambodia, I went with my friends to see Kiles, the newest movie to hit Cambodia’s theatres, and the first production by the Cambodia Film Commission, a government- funded initiative meant to raise the standard of Cambodian film.
The sounds of chanting plays over the opening scene as an old rich man named Kiles is lying in bed, lonely and weak. It doesn’t look like he has long to live, but, as luck would have it, the frail fellow recovers and returns to live with his four wives and countless servants.
The news keeps getting better for the geezer when one of these servants reads his palm and tells him that his fifth wife will be a beautiful young woman. Kiles isn’t a man to wait around for fortune to find him, so he tells his future-seeing househelp to track down someone who owes him money and demand that they give him their daughter’s hand in marriage to clear their debt.
The unfortunate and indebted man who the servant finds conveniently has a beautiful daughter named Teuy. Her devoted boyfriend Plok is a cremator, and he has been taking the golden coins from the mouths of corpses to save for their wedding. When the servant comes knocking he has 99 of the 100 coins needed to get engaged.
Close doesn’t cut it for Teuy’s father, who predictably agrees to marry her off to erase his debts.
It’s not long before old man Kiles and young beauty Teuy are preparing to be married. I’m not a movie-spoiler, so I’m not gonna tell you what happens next. I’ll say that it’s not as predictable as the plot I described thus far.
In some ways the movie seemed to sugggest it would be a sad love story, but that’s not how it was recieved. My friends and I laughed with the rest of the audience during much of the movie, especially a series of scenes showing Plok trying to commit suicide, once by taking a bowl, filling it with water and immersing his head in an attempt to drown. His efforts are so obviously futile that moviegoers don’t have to worry about his pending death. Plok isn’t a complete coward though, in another scene he puts his life on the line to steal his woman from the decrepit dude who stole her away … I’ll let you find out what happens when you see the movie. Feel free to thank me later.
While some of the scenes were silly, others were quite beautiful; with music and gorgeous Cambodian scenery that made me feel a bit of nationalistic pride while being entertained. It was refreshing to see a Cambodian movie with decent acting and voices that are actually recorded during production.
I was quite happy with my decision to spend an hour and half immersed in scenes and stories from Cambodia’s past. You too will have a new perspective on our history, and although some parts of the plot and character development were a bit thin, I walked out of the theatre optimistic about the future of Cambodian film.