Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mangosteen (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Sunil Chauhan
Set within the confines of a juice factory in Thailand, Tulapop Saenjaroen films the eponymous fruit’s journey through its many stages from tree to bottle, bestowing it with a strangely horrific appearance, its pulpy, fleshy, gloopy shape looking increasingly grotesque.
It hints a little at what lies ahead, but until that mid-point turn, the film is compellingly, playfully wayward, a documentary-leaning piece so sincere you might not entirely believe it to be a fictional construction until the credits roll. Following factory worker Earth, who returns to the area to reunite with his sister Ink, as told by a narrator who makes pointed references to Borges, the film wanders from factory goings-on to sudden, disturbingly graphic declarations of violence, and Ink’s desires (voiced in German, no less) to disappear in a fashion that recalls Han Kang’s The Vegetarian.
It could easily be wacky, but the film’s firm tonal balance of deadpan sincerity and fanciful narrative, collapsing the boundaries between fiction and documentary while avoiding familiar crossover areas, is one of its most appealing qualities. Utilising frequent detours into lysergic imagery spanning oil refineries, syringe- stabbed tress, body scans, cat paws, footage of talking toys, as well as retro 3D scans of the mangosteen fruit itself, it’s all bound together by a lo-fi, smeared, video aesthetic. It’s not clear if the path of the humble fruit from tree to bottle is an allegory for the existential malaise of its protagonists, or if Saenjaroen is suggesting this kind of meltdown is a result of factory work, but the film’s strangely calm, amusingly feverish lilt is unique.Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2023