Ahimsa: Stop to Run (2005)

Directed by
Running into karma
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-07-28

Ahingsa is a DJ in Pattaya. After taking some drugs he starts to experience hallucinations, such as a man in a red suit who claims that he is Ahingsa's karma and the time has come for him to pay for the sins of his past life. As hallucinations go this one is pretty persistent, and seems intent on causing problems in Ahingsa's life.

That's only a vaguely accurate synopsis, but trying to summarise the film more thoroughly would either be pointless or lengthy as there's a lot going on in it. It has quite a lot in common with Johnnie To's Running On Karma, including an experimental non-linear structure, though not nearly as convoluted or oblique so there's a much better chance of understanding it on first watch.

Karma is a fact of life for most Thai people, the belief that bad deeds in your previous life are the cause of suffering in this supposedly encourages people to behave more virtuously (I guess claiming that it would pay off in this life was a hard sell) but can also lead to fatalism - if your life's course is set by karma then why waste energy trying to change it?

Ahingsa is not one to accept his karma quietly, and resists the suffering his karma tells him is his due. Can he avert the outcome that karma has in store for him, and those close to him?

Ahingsa 007

My old home Pattaya's neon streets, crowded back alleys and beautiful beaches make for a visually stimulating environment, and the colourful characters, stylish cinematography and soundtrack create a slick package.

The film replaced Invisible Waves as Thailand's nominee for the Best Foreign Film Oscar at the last moment, allegedly because Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's film was deemed insufficiently "Thai", which is certainly not an accusation you can level at Ahimsa (pretty sure it's actually called AHINGSA - STOP TO RUN but I'll go with what seems to be the more commonly listed English name).

I don't suppose either film had much chance of winning the Oscar, but INVISIBLE WAVES was probably more likely to be taken seriously, I suspect this film would have left the jury quite confused. Screw those guys though, the fact that PARASITE was the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture Oscar tells you everything you need to know about what their opinion is worth.

I think AHIMSA - STOP TO RUN is actually the more interesting of the two films, they're both unique and unconventional but Ahimsa is a more colourful character and his story is far more eventful. They have surprisingly similar fates though, now that I think about it.

Ahingsa 002

I've had the film since about 2005 but the subtitles on the Thai DVD were out of sync and back then I wasn't smart enough to overcome such an obstacle. I routinely resync subtitles before I've had breakfast these days (or at least by lunchtime) but hadn't got around to doing so for this film until now. I didn't think it was going to be a particularly worthwhile endeavour, the DVD cover looks pretty generic, but learning about its usurpation of INVISIBLE WAVES got me intrigued. The subtitles are pretty awful even when they are in sync, but glad I finally got around to it... having lived their for a while I can pick up a little more meaning from the dialogue as well, which probably helps a bit.