An injured man turns up in a woman’s apartment and claims he’s its real owner in “Someone from Nowhere,” a gripping existential psychodrama by multitalented Thai filmmaker Prabda Yoon. In a stylistic backflip from his flashy, trashy and occasionally inspired debut feature “Motel Mist,” Yoon delivers a precision-tooled two-hander that begins as a home invasion thriller and turns into a tense and sometimes surreal discourse on identity, memory and survival. Armed with a killer final line of dialogue that’s sure to get many viewers thinking and talking about what they’ve just seen, this quality item should notch plenty of festival mileage and has theatrical art house potential locally and regionally. Domestic release details are pending.
A noted multimedia artist, novelist and scriptwriter whose credits include the Pen-ek Ratanaruang-directed features “Last Life in the Universe” and “Invisible Waves,” Yoon sets almost the entire film inside a well-appointed apartment within the fictional Liberty Land complex. On the rare occasions his camera ventures outside it’s for seemingly mundane or apparently unrelated matters that assume much greater significance as the drama unfolds.
Yoon’s first scene is set with such normality and neutrality that it becomes quietly compelling. A long sequence showing the apartment’s twentysomething occupant, Napatsorn Ponnapa (Chayanit Chansangavej), going about her unremarkable morning routine of exercise, breakfast, hair and make-up. Eight minutes of dialogue-free activity passes before Napatsorn takes uneventful phone calls from her mother and a female friend who’s visiting later in the day.
Just as viewers might be wondering where all this is heading Napatsorn finds an unconscious and injured young man (Peerapol Kijreunpiromsuk) lying in the hallway. In the time it takes her to call building supervisors for assistance the man enters her apartment and stretches out on the sofa. The stranger might possibly be dangerous, but he’s been badly roughed-up and is carrying a severe hip wound that surely would prevent him from overpowering Napatsorn. But physical threats are not what this smiling and polite intruder is about.
As the wait for help becomes uncomfortably long, the man turns his attention to Napatsorn’s print of Henri Rousseau’s “The Snake Charmer.” After declaring it to be his favorite and commenting on Rousseau’s ability to depict exotic places even though he never left Paris, the man casually says it’s actually his print hanging on the wall and this is his apartment. What’s more, he’s come to reclaim it from “trespasser” Napatsorn and challenges her to provide proof of ownership.
Naturally, Napatsorn thinks the guy is deranged and calls the cops. More annoyed than angry, she agrees to show him the relevant paperwork if he’ll immediately leave afterward. Tension ramps up when Napatsorn discovers her deed contains only blank pages. Attempts to call her mother and police produce static at the other end of the line. Her name has suddenly disappeared from letters and envelopes. For all his talk about having his possessions taken and life ruined by a now-rattled Napatsorn, the man remains controlled, as if this process is merely rectifying a fault in the natural order of things.
Things get creepier and the stakes become potentially deadly when the man describes tiny details of the apartment only the owner could possibly know. The film’s meticulously filmed and edited final third incorporates a trippy rewind and remix of selected prior events while answering the question of whether this is an elaborate hoax or something far more complex.
An intimate two-hander such as this demands excellent performances, and that’s exactly what Chansangavej and Kijreunpiromsuk deliver under Yoon’s precise direction. Kong Pahurak’s sleek camerawork and a terrific score by Jitivi Banthaisong that combines crunching industrial noise and other-worldly electronica are highlights of a first-class craft package.