THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI.

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Going back a little way to 2001 for this particular soundtrack which was up until last year unavailable as a commercial release outside of Thailand. It’s one of those soundtracks that one has in the collection but sad to say seems to forget about it, only playing it once in a blue moon, but each time one does give it an airing you think “WHY don’t I play this more often”? The movie is THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI which is a beautiful and epic production directed and written by Chatrichalerm Yukol who is a member of the Thai Royal family, for many years the authorities in Thailand were a little annoyed that films such as THE KING and I and the more recent ANNA AND THE KING were made but did not tell the true facts about certain events that occurred in Thai history, thus these are banned for public screenings in the country.

So the story goes that the director (who himself has Royal Blood) was at a state dinner and was asked by the Queen of the Thailand why he could not make a good movie about the history of his own country, the film maker took this to be a command from his Monarch and set about writing and directing what was to become  THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI. Three years later his task was completed and the movie was released. The finished film is indeed a triumph and no mean fete as the director was not accustomed to making such grand scale films. The story begins with Suriyothai, who is a young and beautiful princess being betrothed to Prince Thienraja, who is a virtuous and kind person but also rather boring and dull as far as the Princess is concerned. She decides that she would rather be with her childhood friend, Lord Srithep, but sacrifices her own desires and happiness for the good of the Kingdom. This is the first of a series of difficult decisions she is called upon to make. As the movie and storyline progresses we begin to see Thailand as a country with a beautiful and sophisticated culture which is every bit the equal of the Japan of that era, but under stress from rebellious provinces and foreign invaders, but after a number of royal deaths from disease, disasters, and even assassination brings about a dynastic struggle in which the young Princess organizes a rebellion against a usurper that brings her husband to the throne. She then has to go into battle against the Burmese who decide to take advantage of the state of confusion within Thailand, clad in armour and riding an elephant she helps her husband defeat the invaders.

The film which was originally a four-hour saga was edited down to 185 minutes for its release outside of Thailand, and because of this is at times somewhat disjointed, but it remains easy to follow and is certainly a movie that  intrigues and grips any watching audience irrespective of Nationality. The movie is thoughtfully photographed and a lot of work has gone into shooting the movie is some stunning settings, it contains some exciting and highly authentic battle scenes with jousting from the back of elephants being seen at one point and also an impressive and highly dramatic battle in which river galleys are used. This is a wonderfully set movie, which engrosses  and entertains throughout its entire duration, it is filled with dark betrayal, intrigue and ambition and  is a rare insight into the colourful and somewhat bloody history of Thailand. The musical score is not as one might think by a Thai composer but is written by Richard Harvey who has worked on a number of highly successful British TV dramas which include COLDITZ, G.B.H, JAKES PROGRESS and SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE amongst others. He once had a highly fruitful collaborative partnership with composer Stanley Myers and contributed to scores such as THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE HONORARY CONSUL as well as writing his own music for FIRST AMONG EQUALS, TERRAHAWKS and HALF MOON STREET. His music for THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI is in a word “MAGNIFICENT”, it is brimming with eloquent and affecting themes which entice and enrapture the listener, a fully symphonic score that literally overflows with wonderfully lush and lavish sounding themes this is a score that cannot fail to please any collector of fine movie music. Harvey utilises to great effect soprano voice which is underlined and supported by strings and lilting woodwind at times creating a haunting and mesmerising work. Even the vocals within the score are worth listening to which is something I rarely say in reviews, but these are so strong, well-written and performed in Thai and English that they have to be brought to your attention. I love the way in which the composer creates beguiling themes via the string and brass sections and although this is a Thai movie he seems to score it in a very western way, yes there are a number of oriental or Eastern sounding nuances and passages but it is scored in such a fashion that these fuse almost seamlessly with the composers more conventional approach to scoring the picture. The movie is a triumph and Harvey’s soundtrack too is Majestic and alluring. Highly recommended, if you can get a copy please buy it now.

http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/w/267649

1. The Court of Ayuthaya 3.18
2. For the Heart of a Princess 2.15
3. A Nation’s Honour 3.41
4. The Gates of Hell – Siege 4.14
5. The Hand of Fate 3.24
6. A Royal Tribute 2.45
7. Deadly Enchantment 1.28
8. The Poisoning of King Chai 4.30
9. Under Cover of Darkness – Assassins! 3.07
10. Eternal Flower 2.32
11. War’s Tragedy 3.20
12. The Death of a Hero 2.03
13. Lord Piren’s Pledge 4.17
14. A Vision of Fear 1.32
15. Queen Suriyothai’s Destiny 2.41
16. Love and Remembrance 2.52
17. Now and Forever. Suriyothai 5.48

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