Syndromes and a Century

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Syndromes and a Century
The theatrical poster.
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Produced by Wouter Barendrecht
Simon Field
Michael J. Werner
Keith Griffiths
Charles de Meaux
Pantham Thongsangl
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Written by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Starring Nantarat Sawaddikul
Jaruchai Iamaram
Sophon Pukanok
Jenjira Pongpas
Narrated by Lee Chatametikool
Music by Kantee Anantagant
Cinematography Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Edited by Lee Chatametikool
Distributed by Fortissimo Films
Strand Releasing
Release date
Running time
105 minutes
Country Thailand
Language Thai

Syndromes and a Century (Thai: แสงศตวรรษ S̄æng ṣ̄atawǎat, literally Light of the Century[1]) is a 2006 Thai drama film written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film was among the works commissioned for Peter Sellars' New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.[2] It premiered on August 30, 2006 at the 63rd Venice Film Festival.

The film is a tribute to the director's parents and is divided into two parts, with the characters and dialogue in the second half essentially the same as the first, but the settings and outcome of the stories different. The first part is set in a hospital in rural Thailand, while the second half is set in a Bangkok medical center. "The film is about transformation, about how people transform themselves for the better", Apichatpong said in an interview.[3]

In Thailand, Syndromes and a Century became controversial after the Board of Censors demanded that four scenes be cut in order for the film to be shown commercially. The director refused to cut the film and withdrew it from domestic release.[4] Since then, the director had agreed to a limited showing in Thailand where the cut scenes were replaced with a black screen to protest and inform the public about the issues of censorship.


  • Nantarat Sawaddikul as Dr. Toey
  • Jaruchai Iamaram as Dr. Nohng
  • Nu Nimsomboon as Toa
  • Sophon Pukanok as Noom, the orchid expert
  • Jenjira Pongpas as Pa Jane
  • Arkanae Cherkam as Dentist Ple
  • Sakda Kaewbuadee as Monk Sakda
  • Sin Kaewpakpin as Old Monk



"It's a film about heart", the director told the Bangkok Post. "It's not necessarily about love, it's more about memory. It's about feelings that have been forever etched in the heart."[5]

It was originally entitled Intimacy and Turbulence and was to be an autobiographical look at his mother and father, who were both physicians working in a hospital in Khon Kaen, Thailand. But the director revised that concept when he cast the actors and began filming. The story still focuses on a male and female doctor, and is dedicated to the director's parents, but is set in two hospitals 40 years apart and explores both the memories and current lives of the protagonists.

"I began with my parents' story, but it has sprung to other things", Apichatpong said in an interview. "When I met the actors, when I found the location, there were other stories combined and added in. I try not to limit it. I allow it to flow whichever way it goes. It is very exciting."[6]


Critical reception[edit]

The film has an 87% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 38 reviews.[7] Metacritic gives it a score of 71 out of 100, based on seven reviews.[8]

Screen Daily noted the enigmatic, non-existent narrative while praising the film's technical aspects.[9]

Top ten lists[edit]

The British Film Institute's Sight & Sound year-end poll for 2007 had Syndromes and a Century tied for seventh best with four other films.[10] Syndromes also appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.[11]

In November 2009, the film was named by Toronto International Film Festival's Cinematheque as the best of the decade, as voted by more than sixty international film historians, archivists, curators, and programmers.[12]

In BBC's 2016 poll of the greatest films since 2000, Syndromes and a Century ranked 60th.[13]

Thai reception and censorship[edit]

See also: Censorship in Thailand and Motion picture rating system in Thailand

A limited theatrical release in Bangkok was originally slated for April 19, 2007, but was indefinitely delayed after the Board of Censors demanded the removal of four scenes. Apichatpong refused to cut the film and withdrew it from domestic circulation.

He explained his reasons for doing so in an article in the Bangkok Post:

I, as a filmmaker, treat my works as I do my own sons or daughters. I don't care if people are fond of them or despise them, as long as I created them with my best intentions and efforts. If these offspring of mine cannot live in their own country for whatever reason, let them be free. There is no reason to mutilate them in fear of the system. Otherwise there is no reason for one to continue making art.[4]

Two of the "sensitive" scenes involve doctors engaging in "inappropriate" conduct (kissing and drinking liquor) in a hospital; the others depict a Buddhist monk playing a guitar and two monks playing with a remote-control flying saucer.[4] The censors refused to return the print unless the requested cuts were made.[14]

Later in 2007, the film was shown twice in privately arranged screenings at the Alliance française in Bangkok.

The censorship of the film came about as a motion picture rating system was being considered by the National Legislative Assembly. A replacement for the 1930 film act, the ratings law contained a restrictive ratings structure and retained the government's powers to censor and ban films it deemed would "undermine or disrupt social order and moral decency, or that might impact national security or the pride of the nation".[15]

To oppose the draft law, Apichatpong and other directors formed the Free Thai Cinema Movement. "We disagree with the right of the state to ban films", Apichatpong was quoted as saying. "There already are other laws that cover potential wrongdoings by filmmakers."[16]

Ladda Tangsupachai, director of the Ministry of Culture's Cultural Surveillance Department, said the ratings law was needed because moviegoers in Thailand are "uneducated". "They're not intellectuals, that's why we need ratings", she was quoted as saying.[17] Despite the protest, the law was passed on December 20, 2007.[15]

After the passing of the new film act, Apichatpong resubmitted the film to the Board of Censors in hopes that they would be less restrictive. However, the board ordered two more scenes to be removed, in addition to the four they previously ordered for removal. He finally agreed to the have the film censored, despite expressing regret over resubmitting the film at all.[18] A producer for the film, Keith Griffiths, broke news of the censorship to Filmmaker and shared photographs of censors cutting the selected scenes from the film print.[19]

This was the last chance to display my accumulated anger. This was not only about this film… there are countless films, self censored, censored, banned. Where is the audience's voice? In a way it was liberating but while watching the film, I felt so bad of course. It was the most stupid film ever shown.

—Apichatpong Weerasethakul[20]

The censored film was shown for a limited run at the Paragon Cineplex in Bangkok, Thailand, opening on April 10, 2008.[21][22][23] Each censored scene was replaced with scratched black film frames and silence, lasting as long as the original scene. A total of 15 minutes were cut from the film, with the longest censored scene running seven minutes.[24][25]

At the showing, postcards were handed to ticket buyers, showing stills from the missing scenes and URLs to watch them on YouTube.[22][23][25] Following complaints from moviegoers, the theater displayed a sign explaining the omission of scenes.[20] A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the Thai Film Foundation, who also hosted an exhibition about the history of Thai censorship at the theater.[18][26]

Apichatpong expressed that he intends to donate the censored film print to the Thai National Film Archive.[19]

Festivals and awards[edit]

Syndromes and a Century had its world premiere at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, where it was in competition. It was also screened at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, London International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Tokyo Filmex, Pusan International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Maryland Film Festival, and the Melbourne International Film Festival.

At the inaugural Asian Film Awards in 2007 in Hong Kong, the film won the Best Editor award for Lee Chatametikool. It was also nominated for best director and best cinematographer.[27]


Syndromes and a Century was released on Region 1 DVD on January 15, 2008 by Strand Releasing.

The UK DVD release of Syndromes and a Century (Region 2) by the British Film Institute is scheduled for June 30, 2008.

The French DVD of Syndromes and a Century is released by Survivance (with Luminous People in the special features)


  1. ^ Li Min, Lim. November 2, 2006. "A Thai director's elliptical view of the world", International Herald Tribune.
  2. ^ New Crowned Hope detail page.
  3. ^ Associated Press. August 31, 2006 First Thai film to compete for Golden Lion premieres at Venice Film Festival, via International Herald Tribune (retrieved September 4, 2006).
  4. ^ a b c Rithdee, Kong. Thai director cancels film's local release, Bangkok Post, retrieved 2007-04-12
  5. ^ Rithdee, Kong (July 28, 2006). Everything is illuminated, Bangkok Post (retrieved July 28, 2006).
  6. ^ Pansittivorakul, Thunska. April 29, 2006. Conversation with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Retrieved 2006-07-28.
  7. ^ Syndromes and a Century, Rotten Tomatoes, retrieved 2008-01-20
  8. ^ Syndromes and a Century, Metacritic; retrieved 2007-01-20
  9. ^ September 2, 2006. Syndromes and a Century (retrieved 2006-09-04).
  10. ^ Films of the year 2007 Archived 2008-09-05 at the Wayback Machine., Sight & Sound; retrieved 2008-01-20
  11. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  12. ^ Dixon, Guy (November 23, 2009). "TIFF names top 30 films of the decade". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 13, 2016. 
  13. ^ "The 21st century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  14. ^ Weerasethakul, Apichatpong. September 14, 2007. Who can save my flying saucer?, The Guardian (retrieved on September 15, 2007).
  15. ^ a b Rithdee, Kong. December 20, 2007. Thailand passes controversial film act, Variety (magazine); retrieved 2008-01-23
  16. ^ Rithdee, Kong. November 28, 2007. Directors protest censorship law, Variety (magazine); retrieved 2008-01-23
  17. ^ Montlake, Simon. October 11, 2007. Will Thai reforms make censorship worse?, Time (magazine); retrieved 2008-01-23
  18. ^ a b Pajee, Parinyaporn (2008-04-12). "Censorship 'Syndromes' and silence". Daily Xpress. Archived from the original on 2008-04-12. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  19. ^ a b Macaulay, Scott. "Stranger Than Fiction?". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  20. ^ a b Griffiths, Keith (2008-05-13). "Censorship then and now". FilmInFocus. Archived from the original on 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  21. ^ Kwai, Wise (2008-04-10). "Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal: News and Views on Thai Cinema: 'Thai people want to see comedy'". Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  22. ^ a b Hunt, Matthew (2008-04-10). "Syndromes & A Century (Thailand's Edition)". Dateline Bangkok. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  23. ^ a b Jan (2008-04-09). "Syndromes and a Century: Thailand's Edition". bangkok-ok!. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  24. ^ Rithdee, Kong (2008-03-14). "Thai censors order additional cut". Variety. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  25. ^ a b Kwai, Wise (2008-04-12). "Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal: News and Views on Thai Cinema: The six censored scenes of Syndromes and a Century". Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  26. ^ Kwai, Wise (2008-04-04). "Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal: News and Views on Thai Cinema: Syndromes and a Century: The long road home". Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal. Retrieved 2018-06-13. 
  27. ^ Paquet, Darcy. 2007-03-20. "'Host' wins most at Asian Film Awards", Variety, retrieved 2007-03-31.

External links[edit]