Parkpoom Wongpoom's new film focuses on a spirit who inhabits a teenager's body on a temporary basis
FIFTEEN YEARS have passed since his directorial debut “Shutter” for which he joined with Banjong Pisunthanakun and now Parkpoom Wongpoom is back with his first solo feature. The new film, “Homestay”, which opens on October 25, is a mixed genre movie about a wandering spirit who finds a new home in a teenager’s body and discovers the meaning of life.
The story begins when the spirit meets a mysterious man who calls himself the Guardian (Nopachai Jayanama). The two are defying gravity at the time, standing on the outer wall of a hospital building. The Guardian tells him that he has been granted a prize – a new home in the teenage body of Min (Teeradon “James” Supapunpinyo) whose dead body is in the hospital’s morgue.
Living in a new body is called a homestay. It’s temporary and doesn’t come for free. Within 100 days, he has to find out “who is responsible for Min’s death”. If he fails, he will die and leave this homestay for eternity. As Min, he has a new life living with his family: father (played by veteran DJ Viroj Khwantham), who is busy with his professional life and ignores his family, mother (Suquan Bulakool) and older brother (Nutthasit Kotimanus- wanich) who is smarter than Min and makes him feel inferior. His new life takes a turn for the better when he meets Pie (BNK48’s leader Cherprang Areekul) and that makes him want to stay in this body forever.
The movie is inspired by the Japanese novel “Colorful” by Eto Mori, which was written in 1999 and translated into Thai in 2003 as “Mua Sawan Hai Rangwan Phom”. The story, which brings a heart-warming take to the teenage problems of family, friends and suicide, attracted director Yongyooth Thongkongtoon who snapped up the copyright but never completed the project. Yongyooth handed the treatment to Parkpoom after becoming involved in the cinematic show “Kaan” two years ago during the transition of GTH to GDH.
After reading the novel and the script that had been developed for a year, Parkpoom adopted the project as his solo debut. He spent another 19 months rewriting the script to give it a more cinematic feel while taking care to stick to the original concept.
“We bought the copyright because we liked the story idea and wanted to keep the essence of the novel. To me, it is a very positive story, not a dark drama even though it deals with serious teenage issues,” says the director, who has worked on several anthologies over the years.
Fans of the novel probably focus on the issue of teen suicide but Parkpoom is more interested in the development of Min’s character.
“I think the suicide issue is the basic plot but I didn’t pay attention to it when writing the script. I like the changes in Min. He is vulnerable and interesting to follow and the character inspires me personally, especially the temporary or homestay aspect, which can apply to everything in life. By not looking at anything as permanent, we are freed from worry and life is happier,” says the director.
The concept of “homestay” relates to the Buddhist non-attachment principle, which has it that everything will come and depart eventually, including life itself. When the spirit is first placed in Min’s body, he lives freely and joyfully, looking at Min’s life as an outsider. But once Min’s behaviour changes, he feels that Min is his own self, not just his “homestay” and that makes him want to bring back the best to Min’s life.
In line with the original title “Colourful”, Mori’s novel also offers an idea of how we see people. People have different colours and tones, have good and bad sides depending on how we see them and that will change our life also.
Adapting the original story was harder than Parkpoom thought. “It wouldn’t work if we transposed the book directly to the movie. It’s my job to add the cinematic elements both visual and aural to make the story come alive on the big screen,” says the director.
“Japanese and Thai societies are different. We have different beliefs and certainly there are things that don’t make sense when put in the Thai context. This led me to make many changes to the story while keeping the original concept,” he says.
Since the success of “Shutter” and “Alone”, his co-director Banjong has come up with a series of solo films, ranging from “Guan Muen Ho” (“Hello Stranger”) to the all-time top grossing film “Pee Mak Phra Khanong” and the latest “One Day”. Parkpoom, on the other hand, has been involved in anthology projects including the horror “4 Phraeng” (“4Bia”) and “5 Phraeng” (“Phobia2”) and is also involved in “Kaan”.
He also contributed to the 2015 short film project “Kita Raja Nipon”, which transformed His Majesty the large King’s famous songs into stories, chronicling the life and struggles of conservationist Sueb Nakasatien in “Fontok Thee Huai Kha Khaeng” (“Raining in Huai Kha Khaeng”).
Parkpoom says he has developed a few projects over the years, among them a biopic of Sor Sethabutr, who came up with the first English-Thai dictionary, but these were cancelled for different reasons and he’s been kept busy writing scripts for other movies.
He says he felt vulnerable when people asked him about his first solo film and simply didn’t want to rush into anything.
“Waiting brought me the reward of being free to accept this project. With more maturity and experience, “Homestay” has come out like I wanted it,” says the 40-year-old director.
He is also pleased with his cast. James earned critical acclaim for his role in the TV drama series “SOS Skate Suem Saa” in which he plays as a boy with depression, Nopachai worked with him on “Raining in Huai Kha Khaeng” and pop idol Cherprang has an aptitude for the big screen.
“They are all talented and I didn’t want to rely solely on GDH regulars. Nutthasit has never worked with GDH and I was lucky enough to cast Cherprang before the BNK48 phenomenon hit. She has an interesting character that was perfect for the role of Pie.”
In fact the only aspect of the film he has not enjoyed is the work related to the computer graphics.
“I don’t like it because I can’t see it visually while shooting. We have only an actor acting against a green screen and we have to rely on our own imagination. I tried to avoid it as much as possible,” he says.
“I knew the visual work wouldn’t come out as I imagined unless I could communicate my thoughts precisely to the CG team. I watched every CG shot 20 times or so until I knew why and where I didn’t like it so I could give feedback to the team. It’s no good just to say ‘I don’t like it’. But after watching it so many times, I was able to say the perspective or the blurring density wasn’t right,” he says.
“I love the story and I really hope the audience will love it too and experience the same emotions as I felt while reading the novel.”