COVID-19 brings together two cinematic veterans on ‘The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror’
Bangkok, 9 February 2021 —The COVID-19 crisis has forced many artists to reinvent themselves, and for conductor-composer-opera impresario Somtow Sucharitkul this has meant revisiting a genre he had not worked in for two decades.
For veteran filmmaker Paul Spurrier, former child star and director of award-winning films like The Forest, the crisis meant that normal creative avenues have been shut down for months.
The two of them decided to break out of the box together. Somtow has a young orchestra and a lot of postponed concerts, but he dabbled in film when working in Hollywood, directing two low-budget films including the award-winning III Met by Moonlight. As the author of several significant horror novels, he has a following outside the creative realm in which he is known today.
Spurrier almost has an entire filmmaking crew living in his personal household. He is an accomplished director of photography while his wife works in sound and his sister-in-law is a veteran camera assistant. He has major credibility as a filmmaker, with two films on Netflix and another, Eullenia, having opened last year’s ASEAN film festival.
Somtow approached Spurrier and asked him if there was a low-budget film project they could make together, especially if it could give his youth orchestra an interesting and educational project to work on.
Spurrier said, “I want to do a film about a mad maestro who kidnaps this youth orchestra to try and play his masterpiece, then things start going wrong, only you have to play the mad maestro yourself.”
This was the genesis of The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror, but when Somtow put on his S.P. Somtow writer persona, and started working on the script, the project began to become more complicated and was no longer a quick 12-day project. “Having worked for Roger Corman in the 1990s,” Somtow said, “I had an idea of how to write big for small resources.”
The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror, currently in production on location in Bang Na and Pak Chong, tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by the public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting imbecile, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by a street busking violinist plus a pianist prodigy from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness that brings his transcendent vision to life. Inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.
When word of this project got out, Paul Spurrier’s reputation brought in an entire ensemble of internationally known Thai actors, including David Asavanond, a multiple award winner known for such films as Countdown; Sahajak Boonthanakit from The Beach, Broke Down Palace, and No Escape, Vithaya Pansringarm from Only God Forgives and The Last Executioner, and Michael Shaowanasai from Metrosexual.
Over 160 young people auditioned for the roles of the two prodigies. The foul-mouthed young pianist who might be even crazier than the maestro is played by Chanitpong Kangwanlerturai or ‘Japan’ and the young busker by Kittitat Karnchanabovorn or ‘Income’, both are newcomers to the big screen. Another fresh face is Sirinya Puengsuwan, who plays the role of the single-minded Leah Savitri. Another recognizable face from the Thai theater world is Jim S. Meesri.
“This is a film about genius and madness and about the fine line that separates the two,” said Spurrier.
“It’s a delicate balancing act,” Somtow added, “between the horror element, the meditation about the nature of creativity, and also some elements of dark comedy. Spurrier is steering us all very carefully through perilous waters.”
To produce this film on a minuscule budget Somtow pressed American and Canadian film investors into service. Local companies contributed locations and services to help bring it about. He is proud that in a small way this little adventure is bringing money into Thai economy.
Another standout feature of this film is the music. The Siam Sinfonietta, conducted by Trisdee na Patalung, performs on the soundtrack which was composed by Somtow but represents the music of the fictional Dr. Arun. The soundtrack, which like the film itself, looks back to the ‘golden age’ of the Hollywood horror genre and is as much a character in the film as the actors.
The Maestro: Symphony of Terror is expected to debut on the international festival circuit.
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