Adapted from Alex Garland's novel by the same name, and directed by Danny Boyle of 'Trainspotting' fame, the movie is a self-proclaimed "figment film". It deals with the life of Richard, Francoise and Etienne as they decide to undertake a perilous, almost impossible journey to a paradise beach off the coast of Thailand, to obtain an experience different from the routine tourist one.
They arrive with the help of a map to what is a secret location - a dream beach which is inhabited by a coterie of European and American tourists. Growing and selling marijuana in sacks fuels the economy here. Each member has particular duties, but the overall goal is the Hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.
Too much thoughtless pleasure leads to satiation and decadence. Things start going awry with the death of one Swede and the injury of another, while they are fishing. Simultaneously, Richard has recklessly left a copy of the map to the private beach with some acquaintances of his in Thailand proper. The secrecy and exclusivity of the beach is threatened. Consequently, Richard has to pay, as has the rest of the community.
This film can be interpreted at various levels actually. Most third-world countries fawn over and welcome foreigners, thinking only of the money in their pockets, little understanding that they are a people largely selfish and insensitive to the nuances of another culture's values, ways of life, customs. This of course, does not apply to all of them.
Beware, however, of the young foreigner intent on having a good time, no matter what the cost.
At another level, the movie talks about humanity, the feelings of love, tolerance and support, in the absence of which no community can survive, and without which a group invariably turns on itself and becomes its own oppressor and its own victim.
Lastly, the movie tries to say, "don't outstay your welcome anywhere." The place away from home where one has seemingly discovered oneself anew maybe very comfortable and rejuvenating, but take that experience for what it is and go back home. For humans are typically products of their environments, they are creatures of comfort that strive to find a home-like pattern and stability in things, no matter where they travel. Stay away from your own environment too long and you might turn into something you wouldn't want to shake hands with.
Inspite of this seemingly intelligent storyline, the direction is not great, the acting mediocre and the sets pasty. Quite frankly, and I admit to being a Bombay addict when I say this, I'd choose Chowpatty Beach anytime!This article was first published on 19 Apr 2000.