Conversation with Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit: “I don’t think death is serious”
What was the initial idea for DIE TOMORROW?
Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit: I never used to think much about death, but over the past five years, I’ve attended many funerals of my friends. They died young from various causes. So I feel death is closer than I think, and we’ll never know which day will be our final day. It could be five minutes from now. Our last moment is always very ordinary, normal and mundane, so I wanted to explore the day before death. It’s the most important day in our lives. And also it was a good opportunity to contemplate death slowly, though the process of scriptwriting and making this film.
The stories in the film are based on news items. What was your process of writing the script and structuring the film?
I collected those news items for many years and I wrote the script based on them, exploring the theme out of them. I needed to make each part a real, ordinary moment, so I decided to make it all one long take focusing on a conversation. It has to be normal, still interesting but not too special, which is quite difficult. You have to balance these elements. It’s easier to write a plot-driven story.
As well as the segmented stories, the film also includes found footage and parts of interviews. Why did you choose this format for the film?
I didn’t want it to be another omnibus film so I found a new way to combine those six short films into one film, and it turned out to be an essay film format. The film is like the archives of death. It contains fictional short films, interviews, short clips, audio recordings and statistics.
Though the film’s subject is of course serious, it does not feel heavy or dark. What tone did you have in mind and how did you strike this balance?
I wanted this film to be slow and calm and to give the audience the space and time to look thoughtfully at it. Because, in the end, I don’t think death is serious. It’s just one process of life we all have to go through. The most important thing is how we live today and now. DIE TOMORROW is not a sentimental film about death.
Many of the actors are ones you’ve worked with previously. Why did you choose to return to these actors, and what was it like working with them again on this different kind of project?
In keeping with the theme of the film, I was aware from the start that this could be my final film before I die. So if it turned out like that, I wanted all the actors and actresses from all of my previous films to be in DIE TOMORROW. The funeral is like a reunion of friends. This film is also like that.
It was fun to get these old actors and actresses to be in an independent film, which has less pressure to satisfy financial goals. We just rolled with the project together and they had the chance to try new roles they’d never done before. The result is that we got unexpected performances out of them.
After making your studio film, what led you to return to independent filmmaking for DIE TOMORROW?
I always go back and forth between studio films and independent films. It depends on the story and the project. This film is quite personal and experimental so I produced it myself. Next year I will go back to making a film with a studio.
How did you fund this production?
We got some money from the Ministry of Culture in Thailand and got sponsored by the post-production company and by a foundation that supports independent films.
(Interview: Asian Shadows)