We interview Beam Wong, Thai filmmaker, circuit bender, illustrator, singer-songwriter and noisemaker, about his new short film Flummoxed Cocoon. Main photo by Graham Meyer.
This is the first film he made since graduating from Silpakorn University, his last short film Huu which was his university thesis work, was screened at the inaugural Bangkok Underground Film Festival in 2015, both short films are like different stories from his same universe, with familiar themes of the creation vs creator, the intersection of dimensions and a very strange cyberpunk metamorphosis, scraping the boundaries of imagination and possible psychosis. A more mature perspective comes through in Flummoxed Cocoon, however, we are left with our own even more ambiguous interpretation of what the film may actually be about.
Experimental, sci-fi musical? That would barely begin to describe Theerapat Wongpaisarnkit’s (Beam Wong) new short premiering at Bangkok Underground Film Festival at Noise Market 6, 3 June 2017 at Museum Siam. We learn what started originally as songs for an EP, transmogrified into a short film. The result is a highly stylised work with a killer lo-fi, experimental folk, post-rock soundtrack, composed and performed also by Beam Wong, intertwined throughout. Set in fictionalised Bangkok it tells the story of a songwriter who develops an unusual disorder and tries to cure this affliction by creating more music. Beam talks to us about how he is more interested in conveying a feeling than meaning.
I understand Flummoxed Cocoon is something you have been wanting to create for a long time, how did the story develop?
The feeling to make a film that has this atmosphere happened around 2016 but not quite sure to say that I wanted to create this for a long time. For me, it always comes in fragments and then I put it all together to make a script. The fragments come all the time but the process to make the film by choosing some fragments to use is not that long when I work. I can’t work with one film for so long, my enthusiasm could go and it will not be fresh. The process starting from writing a script for Flummoxed Cocoon was about five or six months till I’ve finished everything.
Actually, the first draft is about duo band called KUAY I developed that from my zine and my impression when I travel to Tokyo but then when the script was finished it not quite right for me, so I stopped. I felt like this is not what is gonna be the film, so for me, that’s not Flummoxed Cocoon — I threw away everything and got some rest, back to playing music. I made the very, very short EP ‘Fragile Soul’. After I finished that EP I wanted to make the full album with more songs, then everything started to happen, a song that I made, plot, idea for new songs. So it starts with my intention to make an album that’s why it’s musical.
How was your recent trip to Japan?
Nice really, I love the atmosphere. Like I said my impression from that trip was going to make the film happen too. This trip in Tokyo — I always like the city. I wish someday I will shoot my film in Japan.
Is sound alive?
I don’t know.
Do we ‘create’ music, or are we conduits for it?
Maybe both, depends.
What attracts you to noise?
The abstraction and expression maybe. I like atmosphere and feeling, noise can create that and it just fit to my expression. But not all of it is that nice for me, I want to mix noise with music, like I want to mix plot storytelling and atmosphere, with my abstract emotions in my film.
Both Huu and Flummoxed Cocoon deal with resisting change. Why fight the change, the metamorphosis, it is because we will lose who we are or it’s unknown?
Everything change we just have to manage and roll with it. Sometimes it’s fun actually.
What is your relationship with your music?
Same as all my work, it’s what I like to do. Many things usually feelings, myself and love but I’m not afraid of changing so much.
Do you feel you are in a cocoon sometimes?
Yes but now I’m out I guess.
Can you describe the cocoon you were in before?
Uncomfortable, full of chaos but not in the way I like. It’s like died and reborn again. Both 2016-2017 are really important years for me.
What is the significance of the gimp mask?
I just like it and it looks nice in the film, doesn’t it?
How did your obsession with circuit bending start?
I want to create my own instruments which have unique sound and way to play. I like glitch sound from broken things but it is too uncontrollable. For me circuit bending in half controllable half uncontrollable. By using this sort of instruments playing with other instruments it can combine music and glitch noise.
Do you purposely keep a level of ambiguity in your films?
When I make films I don’t structure it by meaning. My ambiguity is not for one meaning, sometime I don’t even know what I do It’s just about feeling and atmosphere. So meaning is free to interpretation.
After the fairly dark ending of Huu, was it important for Flummoxed Cocoon to have things more resolved or a happy ending?
It’s more about my feeling at this time not related to HUU just want happy ending now, but I don’t even know is the situation really happy at the ending but the feeling is kind of release.
Is it hard making a film I feel must have many personal elements in it?
Not that hard. Art is personal anyway I guess and I’m not really telling my biography. Personal elements are just like seeds to plant trees they sometimes grow to be another thing. I’m not directly telling my story that would not fun as this.
I guess a lot of it is sort of your fantasy?
What are your influences?
For this film Elliott Smith and his album Either/Or, Seijun Suzuki, La La Land my own music.
Your last 2 films Huu and Flummoxed Cocoon both deal with similar themes like supernatural metamorphosis and the strange relationship between the creation and the creator, will you continue exploring these themes in the future?
I wanted to make something different after HUU, like I said the first idea is another story but it ends up like this. So for next film I want to make more different but maybe there’ll be some elements that I like still around but it will not about creation and the creator I’ve done with this for now.