Photos and Video
This pensive, artfully crafted drama explores the twisted symbiosis between two American brothers-one domineering and nihilistic, the other guileless and introspective-as they binge on drink, drugs, and women in exotic Thailand. Jake Hunt, who has abandoned his anthropology research for a life of debauchery in the village of Chiang Mai, invites his younger brother Oliver for a visit. Oliver, an aspiring writer suffering through a bout of depression so severe that he tried to take his own life, reveres Jake despite the fact that Jake bullied Oliver throughout their childhood. Intoxicated by both his reunion with Jake and his newfound freedom from responsibility, authority, and structure, Oliver leaps headfirst into Jake's decadent world and falls hopelessly in love with Lek, a comely Amerasian bartender whom Jake paid to be nice to Oliver. Jake, filled with self-loathing, can't make up his mind about whether he wants to sabotage Oliver's relationship or protect his brother from being hurt. A confused and angry Jake pays Lek a visit and unleashes his rage, thereby setting the film on a course towards its bloody, tragic conclusion. By this point Oliver has rejected his brother's depravity and turned inward instead, finding solace in the Buddhist belief that life is illusory and all things cease to exist in the end. Writer-director Seth Grossman's compelling film is topped off by memorable performances from veteran actors Ellen Burstyn and Josef Sommer as the brothers' parents.
Director's Statement Collapse
I want my films to expose audiences to things they lack in life, whether it's overwhelming love, heartache, joy, or pain. I also believe that American movies need to look outward and examine America's role and impact in the world. I've always loved foreign films, and I want to use the palette of global cinema to communicate a sense of shared humanity and to combat the increasingly dangerous solipsism of American culture. With The Elephant King, I sought to convey the unique charm and terror of being a foreigner and experiencing an alien culture for the first time, when the colors are brightest and everything feels like an adventure. It was important for me to shoot the film in Chiang Mai, where I lived in 1997 and 1998, because that city has such an interesting mixture of hedonism and spirituality-with its ubiquitous temples and go-go bars-that it made an ideal setting for my story of moral decay and regeneration.
Film Information Collapse
[ELEPH] | 2006 | 92 | Narrative Feature
Foreign Title: (The Elephant King)
Language: English, Thai
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
The Elephant King marks Seth Grossman’s feature directorial debut. While attending film school at New York University, he made his first short, American Pork, a documentary about artificial insemination in the swine industry, which screened at numerous international film festivals. He then directed Shock Act, winning Best Narrative Short at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, Grossman studied English literature and creative writing at Princeton University.