Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด RTGS: Satpralat; lit. "monster") is a 2004 Thai romantic psychological drama art film written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film has a bifurcated structure; it is separated into two segments – the first is a romance between two men, and the second a mysterious tale about a soldier lost in the woods, bedeviled by the spirit of a shaman.
|Directed by||Apichatpong Weerasethakul|
|Written by||Apichatpong Weerasethakul|
|Produced by||Charles de Meaux|
|Edited by||Lee Chatametikool|
Jacopo Quadri (Editing Advisor)
Kick the Machine
Anna Sanders Films
|Distributed by||GMM Pictures (Thailand)|
Strand Releasing (U.S.)
It won the Jury Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, and was the first Thai film to be in the main competition at Cannes. It is also the first Thai film to win a prize at one of the "Big Three" film festivals.
In 2022, Tropical Malady was ranked the 62nd greatest film of all time in the Sight & Sound directors' poll. In 2016, it was ranked the 6th greatest LGBT film of all time in the British Film Institute poll.
Keng (Banlop Lomnoi) is a soldier assigned to a post in a small city in rural Thailand. The troops' main duties is to investigate the mysterious slaying of cattle at local farms. While in the field one day, Keng briefly meets a villager named Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee). Later, Keng sees Tong riding in a truck, they talk some more, and a romantic friendship soon develops between them.
Keng helps Tong with his job at an ice factory. One night while driving an ice delivery truck, they find a sick dog on the side of the road. They bring it to a veterinarian, but learn that it has cancer. In turn, Tong signs a form to allow it to undergo chemotherapy. Later, the two of them go to a movie theater.
While sitting together the next day, they're approached by an older woman who tells a story on how two poor farmers lost an opportunity to become rich. In the story, a young monk instructed for them to collect rocks from a nearby pond. After doing so, the rocks turned to silver and gold. When they greedily went back for more though, the silver and gold bars they had previously obtained turned into frogs. Keng, Tong, and the older woman spend the rest of the afternoon together, walking through a cave and meeting the woman's friends.
One night, Keng and Tong ride around the city on a motorcycle. While stopped on the side of the road, they share a brief romantic moment, only for Tong to abruptly wander off into the dark. Keng and his troops leave the village the next day. Some time later, Keng overhears some people saying a monster keeps killing their cattle.
A soldier (Lomnoi) is sent alone into the woods to kill the spirit of a tiger shaman (Kaewbuadee). He follows its pawprints and waits by a tree once it gets dark. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds himself face to face with the shaman in human form. He chases and fights it, but is knocked unconscious and pushed down a steep slope.
When he wakes up, he still has his gun, but his radio and backpack are destroyed. A monkey tells the soldier he needs to kill the shaman; otherwise, the soldier will be devoured and will enter the shaman's ghost world. When it gets dark again, the soldier hears a sound in the distance and fires his gun in that direction, only to discover he killed a cow. The cow's spirit then rises from its body and walks towards a glowing tree. As the soldier walks away, the shaman (now in the form of a tiger) follows him.
The soldier loses his gun and begins walking on his hands and knees until he comes across the tiger shaman in a tree. After staring at each other for a while, the soldier says "I give you my spirit, my flesh, and my memories" as a graphical image of the tiger shaman absorbing him is shown. The soldier continues looking up at the tiger shaman as the wind picks up.
- Banlop Lomnoi as Keng
- Sakda Kaewbuadee as Tong
- Huai Dessom
- Sirivech Jareonchon
- Udom Promma
In Thailand, the film screened for just 10 days at the Siam Theatre. The film was once available for streaming in North America through The Criterion Channel. Since 2020, the film has been removed from Criterion's lineup.
As of 2021, the film's distribution and sales rights in Thailand is currently owned by GDH 559 as a result of ownership of the GMM Pictures' catalog along with GTH titles as well. However it remains unclear if the director's own production company, Kick The Machine retained other rights.
At the press screening at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, several audience members left before the film was over and some of those who stayed until the end booed it. The film received generally poor reviews from such industry journals as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, but then won the Jury Prize from the jury, headed by Quentin Tarantino. Deborah Young of Variety stated in May 2004, it had a "weakly structured story" and "its loosely connected scenes will sorely try the patience of most viewers". Manohla Dargis from The New York Times in Oct 2004 noted it was "unabashedly strange" and this is a "young filmmaker pushing at the limits of cinematic narrative with grace and a certain amount of puckish willfulness". Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian stated "masterpiece, cult classic or just barking mad?", it "makes me want to burst out laughing at its sheer audacity, its eccentricity, its unashamed aspiration to poetry" and it is "sumptuous and scary, and a brilliant adventure in structure and style". S. F. Said from The Telegraph in 2005 noted it was "weird yet utterly beguiling" and "something from another world".
The film has generally been met with favorable reviews since then. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 77%, based on 44 reviews, and an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Tropical Malady forsakes straight narrative lines and easy answers in favor of an utterly unique drama that leaves a lingering, dreamlike impact." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine ranked Tropical Malady the third best film of 2005; the aggregation site They Shoot Pictures, Don't They has also found the film to be the ninth most acclaimed cinematic work of the 21st century  and in 2016 the movie ranked 52nd on an international critics' poll of the greatest films since 2000 by the BBC. In 2019, The Guardian ranked Tropical Malady 84th in its 100 Best Films of the 21st Century list. In 2022, the film was ranked as the 95th greatest film of all time (in a six-way tie) on the British Film Institute's prestigious Sight and Sound poll of film critics.
It is currently registered as one of Thailand's national heritage films by the Thai Film Archive on its eight annual listing in 2018.
- 2004 Cannes Film Festival - Jury Prize
- 2004 São Paulo International Film Festival - Critics Award
- 2005 Indianapolis International Film Festival - Special Jury Prize for Directing
- ^ "Cannes 2004 > In competition > Sud Pradad". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on October 12, 2006. Retrieved January 8, 2007.
- ^ Tropical Malady. Author: Charles Taylor. Publisher: Salon. Published: 1 October 2004. Retrieved: 22 May 2014.
- ^ Film review: Beauty doesn't clarify 'Malady'. Author: Jeff Vice. Publisher: DeseretNews.com Published: 16 Sept 2005. Retrieved: 22 May 2014.
- ^ "Directors' 100 Greatest Films of All Time". BFI. Retrieved December 2, 2022.
- ^ "The 30 Best LGBTQ+ Films of All Time". BFI. March 15, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
- ^ Pfaff, Tim (July 9, 2005). "Out of the jungle and onto the big screen -- cult film from Thailand travels to U.S.", San Francisco Chronicle (retrieved August 4, 2006).
- ^ "ภาพยนตร์ - จีเอ็มเอ็ม แกรมมี่".
- ^ a b Young, Deborah (May 18, 2004). "Tropical Malady". Variety. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- ^ a b Said, S. F. (March 4, 2005). "Like nothing you've ever seen". The Telegraph. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- ^ Dowd, A. A. (January 22, 2015). "Fahrenheit 9/11 was a call to action that Tarantino and his Cannes jury answered". Film. avclub.com. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- ^ Dargis, Manohla (June 29, 2005). "A Riddle of a Romance Stricken by a Different Kind of Love Bug". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- ^ Bradshaw, Peter (March 4, 2005). "Tropical Malady". The Guardian. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- ^ "Tropical Malady (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- ^ "Tropical Malady Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- ^ Georgaris, Bill. "21st Century (Full List)". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- ^ "The 100 best films of the 21st century". The Guardian. September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
- ^ "The Greatest Films of All Time". BFI. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
- ^ "รายชื่อภาพยนตร์ที่ได้รับการขึ้นทะเบียนเป็นมรดกภาพยนตร์ของชาติ ครั้งที่ 8 ปี 2561" [List of films registered as national heritage films, 8th listing, 2018]. Thai Film Archive (in Thai). Film Archive (Public Organization). Retrieved March 23, 2019.