Is Nag Nag ultimately a ghost story or a story about the efficacy of Thai Buddhism? Nonzero Minibus’s Nag Nag (1999) tells a compelling story of Nag, a ghost whose strong longing desires kept her within the human realm. Desperately trying to live a normal life with Make, her husband, Nag kills any characters that try to Inform the unsuspecting Make of her death. Eventually Nag goes on a rampage when Make finally realizes the truth. With the central plot being based mainly on the ghost of Nag and her often brutal interactions with other characters, the film could generally be geared as a horror story.
However, the evident focus on the concepts of Buddhism, achieved through the director’s choice of presentation, essentially set aside the horror elements to reveal a film that ultimately highlights the efficacy of Buddhism. Nag Nag Is heavily embedded with references to Buddhist beliefs. Nag clinging onto the human realm as a ghost correlates directly with the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, which states that all beings are entrapped In a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
The concept of karma, another key Buddhist concept, Is also portrayed wrought Nag;s lamentations: she mourns that dying in childbirth and being parted from Make are due to her bad karma. Some] Too, the High Dignitary, chiseling out a piece of Nag;s skull to take with him and Make ordaining after Nan’s proper burial are all related to the concept of reincarnation and karma. While Nag travels with Seemed Too to pay off her bad karma from the murder she committed as a ghost, Make ordains as a monk to give Nag some good karma for her next life.
In addition, during Nan’s final departure from Make, she wishes to be reunited with Make and her child in he next life. Many of the incorporation of Buddhist concepts ultimately outshine the film’s tamed horror aspects and geared the viewers’ attention towards the depiction of Buddhism. Various scenes with incorporated Buddhist beliefs clearly establish the theme that Buddhism triumphs over all physical and spiritual hurdles. In Nag Nag, numerous examples strongly project the vast influence of Buddhism in Thai lifestyle.
No matter how grave the problem, Buddhism is almost always the ultimate solution. For instance, in the scene when Make, fatally wounded and proclaimed helpless by the coal doctor, sleeps aggravatingly on the temple floor, Seemed Too enters the scene and cures Make miraculously. Buddhism, represented with the small Buddha sculptures and yellow candles, also gives Make peace of mind when he Is writhing In pain and thinking of Nag. For the villagers, the temple serves as the center of the village where they can set up meetings and seek advice from the local monks and novices.
It was the local head monk’s words that release Make from Nan’s spells. And the first place Make runs to after finding out the truth about Nag Is the temple, where e seeks protection from Nag;s ghost by having monks wrap him up with holy strings. Perhaps the most gripping portrayal of the Influence of Buddhism Is the scene when Seemed Too arrives at Nan’s burial site to subdue the rampaging Nag. Nag, who even scares the local monks with her anger, Is powerless In the face of the High Dignitary.
In stark contrast to the Brahmins ghost banisher, Sound] Too does not use violence to suppress Nag: instead, he cordially invites Nag to listen to his sermon, strongly suggests the superiority of Buddhism over Brahmins when the ghost knishes ends up getting killed by Nag while Seemed Too easily solves the situation. Such portrayal leaves the viewers with a lasting impression of the graceful and prevailing Buddhism as opposed to the violent Brahmins.
Aside from the numerous references to Buddhist beliefs, the visual elements and sound effects also contribute to emphasizing the importance of Buddhism while limiting the horror aspects. The minimal attention given to create the horror aspects of the film is noticeably outperformed by the stress on Buddhist ideas. In most scenes where Seemed Too is present, the sun would be bright, the skies blue and the High Dignitary always calm and collected. Especially in the scene when he converses with Nag, the weather instantly shifts from raging thunderstorms to the calm skies after the rain.
Slow and light tunes are also played to accompany Seemed Tot’s sermon. In addition to that particular scene, other scenes with monks such as the one at the temple where Make rests and at the temple during the villagers’ gathering all have the same sense of calmness due to the sunny set and flowing music. Such powerful presentation strongly leads the viewers to associate peacefulness with Buddhism. When compared to other mainstream Asian horror films, the horror aspects of Nag Nag are undeniably much more restrained.
While most Asian horror films rely greatly on the use of explicit killing scenes and high-pitched sounds in irregular patterns, Nag Nag employed minimal use of both. In contrary, the love scenes between Make and Nag take up most the film, showing the idealized couple of the obedient wife and caring husband. Additionally, when Nag is actually close to killing someone, thunderstorms occur and the victims’ shutters are bashed by strong minds, but Nag is never shown to kill explicitly.
Later, the victims’ bodies would either be discovered by Make or other characters, as in the case of the midwife and Mask friend. Even when Nag starts going on a rampage after the villagers burnt her house, the villagers do not perish in the fire or get their necks broken by her, which is the way ghost-related deaths usually occur particularly in Thai horror films. Rather, the villagers are simply seen scattering away into the forest. Blood, one of the most relevant elements associated with horror movies, has also seen limited use in the elm.
Had the film been geared towards being a horror film, there would have been more gruesome details. Truly, the choice of background music, in conjunction with the storyline, further enhances the viewers’ perspective on Buddhism and takes away their attention from the horror elements; the frightening scenes such as when Nag kills someone or when a body is discovered have neither gory details nor sudden high-pitched sound effects. It is apparent that much of the visual elements and music is dedicated to highlighting Buddhist themes rather than the horror elements.
In many ways, Nag Nag is different from the typical Asian horror films the general audience has come to expect from a film from that genre. Most Asian ghost stories, especially Thai ghost stories, are often packed with anachronistic clicks such as sudden appearance of the ghosts, screeching sound effects, and nighttime scenes with the only intention of scaring the viewers. Nag Nag, on a quick glance, may seem to pass as a ghost story since the storyline is almost solely based on the ghost of Nag. On a closer look, however, the story of Nag Nag reveals not only the efficacy of