Sud Pralad

Sud Pralad
Tropical Malady

A romance between a soldier and a country boy, wrapped around a Thai folk-tale involving a shaman with shape-shifting abilities.


Tropical Malady begins with a quotation: “All of us are by nature wild beasts. Our duty as human beings is to become like trainers who keep their animals in check, and even teach them to perform tasks alien to their bestiality.” The quote comes from a short story, Tiger-Poet, also known as The Moon Over the Mountain (published 1942, the year of the author's death) by Japanese writer Ton (Atsushi) Nakajima. Set in China and based on a Tang Dynasty Chinese story, Tiger-Poet is, in broad outline, one of the templates for Apichatpong's film. A scholar named Li Chêng decides to devote his life to poetry. He gives up his civil service job for poetry but falls into poverty. Consumed by bitterness he is forced to re-enter the civil service. Posted to the south of China, he is overtaken by madness during the journey and disappears. As it transpires, he has turned into a tiger, notorious in the area for eating humans. An old friend, Yüan Ts'an encounters him in his tiger form and they converse, Li Chêng hidden behind thick foliage. A voice had summoned him, he recounts, “and an irresistible impulse caused me to obey.””

David Toop1


“When I was younger, I was attracted to Thai adventure stories [by Noi Inthanon, a pen name of Marlai Choophinit] that were always set in the jungle, with various dangerous animals. These stories were influenced by the Western infatuation with the Amazon, which romanticized the jungle and all of its dangers from a colonial viewpoint. This Thai writer [Noi Inthanon] used the Amazon as a bridge to different cultures, but at the same time you come to realize the brutality of these invasions. I grew up with those stories and then you start to compare them with what happened all around the world and also in the country [in Thailand] to indigenous people. The jungle is very rich in memory and that’s why I can picture it like home in my films.”

Apichatpong Weerasethakul2


“Keng vraagt of hij zijn hoofd in Tongs schoot mag leggen. ‘Laat me gerust’, zegt hij lachend. Een ogenblik houdt Keng zich stil en klinken enkel de eeuwige dieren in het woud. ‘Ik bedoel ‘laat me gerust’ als ‘natuurlijk’’. Waarop een glimlach doorbreekt in het gezicht van Keng en hij zijn hoofd op Tongs knieën laat rusten. Hij neuriet een lied. Hij krijgt een verwijt; ‘Zing niet voor jezelf, zing voor ons.’

In de wereld van Weerasethakul resoneren mensen met dingen, dieren en geesten. Er bestaat geen eenzaam lied, want de wereld zingt mee. De regen belijnt de contouren van het landschap. Het geeft de textuur aan van het dak en de bladeren rondom. Cicades trekken strepen door het woud en op het moment dat de roep van een aap ondertiteld wordt kan niemand dit meer verbazen.”

Nina de Vroome1

  • 1Nina de Vroome, “Prisma #4,” Sabzian, April 2017.
UPDATED ON 12.04.2023