‘Anatomy of Time’ is a tender, vigorous and complex tale about how time holds people accountable. In his slow-burning filmmaking, Jakrawal Nilthamrong uses a non-linear structure to create a story that transcends the meanings of time. The story follows Maem as she falls in love with a genocide army chief and how their relationship remains as he becomes ill and disabled. Now as his nurse, Maem finds herself caught in this tortuous relationship with a man that inflicted pain throughout his entire life, and the back and forth narrative brings a compelling and layered view of their story.
The brutality of war weighs on Maem shoulders as she tries to take care of someone who deserves everything that is coming in his way. We will never know why she feels the way she does about him, but that’s not the point here. What Nilthamrong cares about is how he uses time to show that no matter what we do, we’ll all end up in the same way, whether it’s on a bed or on the ground, we can’t escape our fate. The filmmaker uses communist insurgency in Thailand as a background to the main story, as we follow how Maem finds herself between war and love. She eventually has a relationship with another man but it’s just used as a counterpoint to her relationship with The Army Chief.
The mesmerizing sound design and cinematography are essential to the story as they bring the necessary feeling of nature to the film, making it an example of something that trumps time. The sequences of the woods and the caves help to show the geographic history of the country and how lives and memories are connected with them. Every place is filled with stories about those who were there and those who will be, and only the right director could make a story like that feel genuine.
Nilthamrong’s naturalist eyes may recall some of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s works, as the director uses the same kind of realism and sympathy to tell stories about Thailand and its people. The nature is quiet and serene, while Maem’s life is the total opposite of that, and he wanders through her life with the necessary empathic skills to deal with her history and her turbulent relationship without any sort of contempt.
‘Anatomy of Time’ never tries to be too self explained or preachy, actually it’s quite the opposite of that. The film is as ambiguous as possible without ever feeling vague or incoherent. Nilthamrong understands that the meaning of time can diverge from the basic notion, so he rather create an open commentary about it than trying to dictate the narrative. While doing so, he creates an enthralling story about how time haunts and condems people for their actions, and as the film comes to an end we learn that, no matter how long it takes, time remembers.