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A Truly Erotic Film that Takes an Uncompromising Look at Damaged Lives

  • Dec 20, 2008
JAN DARA is a Thai film based on the novel "The Story of Jan Dara" by Utsana Phlengtham. Directed by Nonzee Nimibutr (Nang Nak), the film caused quite a stir in Thailand because of its illicit material. I saw this film in early 2006 and it silenced my voice for awhile, I just couldn't bring myself to review it; I believe it's because of its strong and sensitive themes. Sometimes I think there is a double standard when it comes to film-making. When European film-makers produces a film with material considered "taboo"; it is art, but if Asia makes a similar one; it would be extreme cinema. Jan Dara is not a sleazy sex film but rather an "arthouse" film with beautiful cinematography. The film gives a bleak view of Thai society in the 1930's and sexual relations during that period. The film has a category III rating (equivalent to NC-17 in the U.S.)

The tale revolves around a brutal, womanizing and abusive father who ruins Jan's life because his mother died during childbirth. His father Luang (Santisuk Promsiri) names him Jan Dara because "Janrai" means "Accursed" in the Thai Language. Luang beds almost every woman he lays his eyes on and constantly reminds Jan (Suwinit Panjamawat) that he is cursed and what is expected of him. Jan's stepsister Kaew is raised to hate him. Jan's anchor through these bleak times is his aunt Waad who becomes very close to him and his father's mistress Boonleung (Christy Chung). When his stepsister Kaew gets pregnant, Jan has to marry her as a way of vengeance. Jan Dara is poised to go on the same path as his hated father.



"Jan Dara" is a dark and moody look of damaged lives in 1930's Thailand and offers a very effective depiction of how low humanity can sink into. The film's premise is very depressing and quite frankly, Jan's father Luang is one of the most despicable characters I may have come across (in film) aside from Takeshi Kitano's character in "Blood and Bones". Much like "Blood and Bones", this film is about a very dysfunctional family but unlike "Blood and Bones", Jan Dara goes for very sensitive themes such as lots of visible sex, lesbianism, incest which are both hinted and shown. The film actually has three acts: 1) Jan's birth and childhood. His relationship with his father and aunt are explored. 2) Jan's "coming of age" as a teenager. He develops a relationship with a schoolmate he really fancies and his growing desire for love through sex. 3) The return of Jan in his father's household as an adult.

Even with its dark and depressing premise of a truly dysfunctional family, the film looks very beautiful with its polished, proficient cinematography. The set designs are great and the music is alluring. The film also has some of the strongest scenes to hit home. Also, the sex scenes are beautifully shot and looks very clean but at the same time very erotic and sexy. Actor Suwinit Panjamawat has a very strong sex scene with beautiful Christy Chung that created quite a lot of controversy. Jan was suggested to be around 15-17 years old but the young actor was actually a lot older than the role he played.



Christy Chung certainly has matured as an actress since her days as a beauty queen. Chung does a very solid performance as Boonleung, the actress had to learn to speak Thai and while she did carry a hint of Hong Kong accent, her performance is actually the one that catches the most attention. Her scenes draped in blankets and her nude scenes will forever be etched into the minds of her fans. She actually improves the stereotypical character of Boonleung. Another performance that is worth mentioning is that of actress Wipawee Charoenpura who plays Jan's aunt, Waad who develops a very close relationship with him that borders on incest.

The film does have its weaknesses. Some characters aren't well-developed and Luang's character is one-dimensional and most of the women are just caricatures. Luang's anger is expressed through having sex with lots of women in the household to anger Jan, while the feeling of being unloved births Jan's reaction to sexual intercourse, he seeks comfort in lust. I guess the characters are pretty much "black and white" characters with little shades of gray. Also, some of the other supporting actors' performances are a bit wooden and didn't seem to express the needed emotions.

Despite its faults, "JAN DARA" is a very good film. However, I have to warn everyone that the theme of the film is of such sensitive nature that only the most timid recommendation can be given. The last act of the film is so depressing and the climax is a bit disturbing. Anyone who watches this film would be well advised to have a copy of a "feel good" film or a comedy to watch after to remind yourself that life is still golden and still worth living for. "Jan Dara" is a beautiful film that uses sex to explore a person's state of being and even as a pessimistic commentary of a different society and its culture in a certain period.

RECOMMENDED timidly because of its highly sexual themes [4 Stars]

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January 13, 2011
Sounds interesting. Might have to check it out one of these days. Great review!
January 10, 2010
Interesting. I'm not into depressing movies though ;-) Good review!
January 10, 2010
yeh, this was a soul-scorcher yet it was erotically charged. Which do you prefer vampire movies or depressing ones? :-P
January 11, 2010
I think you should check out DAYBREAKERS if it's playing there, check out my write up on it...
January 11, 2010
Seriously, depressing ones. I just don't see anything I can get out of vampires, lol... but there are reasons why we are depressed over some movies and upon reflection, I could learn something about myself. As for vampires, I've no wish to meet them nor see them in real life! To me, u see one u see them all! :p
More Jan Dara (Original Thai Versio... reviews
review by . January 17, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
I was quickly won over with one reviewer's perception of this film and sure enough this film was very interesting and intriguing enough for me to never leave my seat. Jan Dara opens with the eccentric statement that the film is based on the writer's first novel, and that it's not for religious people. Jan Dara is a young Thai with a traumatic background. The name "Jan Dara" is given to an infant boy whose mother died giving birth to him. The father (Santisuk Promsiri) blames the boy, actually giving …
review by . May 19, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
JAN DARA is one of those rare films that succeeds on many levels: the story as adapted from a famous Thai novel 'The Story of Jan Dara' by Utsana Phleungtham is one of intrigue and exploration of lust, revenge, and thwarted passion; the cinematography by Nattawut Kittikhun is incredibly atmospheric while at the same time pausing for some of the most beautiful studies of nature on film; the musical score by Chartchai Pongprapapan and Pakawat Waiwitaya mixes the exotic pentatonic Oriental melodies …
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About this movie


Enter the exotic and haunting world of JAN DARA; a saga of sex, guilt, retribution and love set in the moody and turbulent Thailand of the 1930s. Jan Dara, a young Thai man whose earliest memories recall his father having sex with his childhood nanny. Jan Dara's mother dies after giving birth to him. Eventually he's disowned by his father which brands him as a bastard in the Thai culture. Years later Jan Dara returns to see revenge by outdoing his father's sexual conquests. Based on one of the most acclaimed Thai novels of the 20th century and directed by one of Thai cinema's most successful and accomplished directors Nonzee Nimibutr (NANG NAK and BAYTONG).
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Genre: Drama
Release Date: January 1, 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 1hr 52min
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