Cultural Arts Review: The Outrage (U-Mong Pha Meung)

Posted on March 20, 2013 by

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The film The Outrage (U-Mong Pha Meung) was shown at the Buddhist film festival and won awards both at the Thailand National Film Awards in 2011 and the Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards in 2012.  Directed by ML Bhandevanop Devakul, the film takes place in the Kingdom of Lanna in Thailand and centers around a mysterious murder with all the witnesses giving different accounts of what happened.  The story is told from a monk (who plans to de-robe due to his confusion and lack of understanding about the murder trial that took place), a woodcutter, and an undertaker.  All three men meet by chance in a tunnel under the city wall during a storm. While in the tunnel they recall the trial.  The murder takes place in the woods.  A warlord, along with his guards and wife, are traveling through the land when they are stopped by a bandit.  The bandit manages to tie the warlord up and rape the wife.  In the end, the warlord dies.  The events that took place from the meeting with the bandit to the death of the warlord are uncertain, as all witnesses give different accounts.   As the story unfolds, the three men in the cave begin to learn things about themselves, others, and the truth.

Of the three men in the tunnel, the monk, the woodcutter, and the undertaker, it was easy to assume that the monk was the wisest of them all, that the woodcutter was just a plain man, and the undertaker a bit crazy.  As the story unfolds, though, what I thought I knew is challenged.  The monk is confused, not understanding the trial or the witnesses.  It is the undertaker that seems to have all the answers.  He tells the monk that people have both good and bad, but that it doesn’t matter, that it is pointless to argue who is right and who is wrong because there is so little time on earth, that we reap what we sow.  The man that I thought the least of is the one with all the answers about life.  As the film progresses, different sides are shown of all the characters: the three in the tunnel, and the warlord, wife and bandit.  Towards the end, the bad and good is seen in each character and the monk finds what he was searching for, a clarity.  He realizes that all this time he was teaching the dharma to others, when he should have been learning from them.  He realizes that everyone is stupid, that we don’t understand, that we are clueless, that we are human.

At the beginning of the film it states that the film was created “to celebrate the virtue of Lord Buddha’s teachings.”  In my eyes, the film succeeded in this.  The film taught me more about what dharma truly is and how those who practice the Buddhist religion view the world and people in it.  It showed that the truth isn’t always black and white; that maybe sometimes there is no real truth.  Overall, it was a good story about life and the meaning of life.  It is easy to see why it won many awards.  It is deserving of all of them.

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Posted in: Buddhism