Richard, a young American tourist, arrives in Bangkok and spends a first night with some weird people doing crazy things. It's not yet clear, that Richard himself is the weirdest of them all, not hesitating to strangulate inccocent people with his bare hands if they are in the way of his plans. But yet he is still a normal young fellow between high school and university, spending a time in Thailand on the search for an real adventure. He soon later bumps in it, when he meets a fellow traveller, who calles himself Duffy Duck, in his cheap accommodation in Bangkok (the atmosphere in these kind of places is shown very realistic, great done). Duffy, after commiting suicide, leaves Richard a map with the location of a perfect beach on it.
THE BEACH, here: Rai Lay Beach on a peninsula near Krabi Town, South of Thailand. The place is not accessable by cars, only small boats are landing here. The mountains give a perfect illustration on how the landscapes on Thailand's western coasts look all the way down the Andaman sea. The film was made not far from here on Ko Phi Phi.
Image: Asienreisender, 2009
And on it goes. Richard invites a young French couple to come with him. Additionally he gives secretly a copy of the map to two American tourists, whom he met one evening before. The three make their way to the remote island and find the beach, where, much to their surprise, a community of some 30 young Westerners are living, as it seems, in perfect harmony. The three newcomers are not really welcome, because there is an agreement between the community and some local marihuana farmer that no more foreigners are allowed to live on the island. Nevertheless the three become integrated in the group.
For a while it's all happiness, but then things change. Sexual relationships are changing and are played with, and, more threatening, the two American fellows with the copy of the map, together with two young women, appear on the search for the beach. They can not be allowed to discover the secret place. Additionally three of the group suffer a sever shark attack, two of them die and one is suffering long-term. Fun is in danger. Dramatic action takes place...
The Beach is pretty much like a dream. Coming from civilization searching for paradise, going back to nature. The actors don't act always like 'real' living people would do. Situations are partially constructed, it would't work out in reality (e.g. when Richard is left alone in the jungle whithout food and support. No common tourist Westerner would stand one night there). But, it's about ideas. Or, in another way, about the lack of ideas. And it is how people think in our times. "A beach ressort for people who don't like beach ressorts" is a contradictive idea. It lacks essence. The figures don't have any distinctive attitude to other Westerners spending time in Thailand. They could stay in Ko Pan Ngan as well, joining full moon parties and living modern consuming life style as they do on their island (as the scene shows when Richard is going to have the "rice run" and they all come to him to order some things to buy). Their attitude is fun by all means. They don't want to take any responsibility. Ones members confession to "Christianity and Cricket" as the two pillars of civilization shows how poor they are constituted. When it comes later to problems, he forgets about Christianity and forsakes the Swedish fellow who is suffering so badly. Probably Cricket is the stronger pillar of civilization.
On the other hand community live is under a kind of dictatorship, led by Sal (Tilda Swinton). Disturbing fun and party activities leads to a ban from their society. Their attitude reflects very much those of many young people in our times, the "fun generation". They don't have any critics on politics and society, are basically affirmative so long they have their fun (football, booze, TV, sex, music etc.). No philosophical or political ideas. Problems like the total destruction of the world are spared - it's no topic. If one does not like it, he or she is considered taking things too serious. It also means exclusion from the group. Richard himself is a perfect example for this attitude. He has no roots, is very alienated, selfish and does not show more morals than a straying cat. The opposite of Richard is Etienne, who is the only one in the community who has values and lives them also when being isolated therefore from the group.
The beach is a dream of a life in garden eden, but turning into a nightmare facing reality.
After the film was launched in Thailand, some Thai politicians complained about how Thailand would be displayed; first it would cause a bad image of the country for being a place for growing and using drugs, second in one of the bars in the movie a Buddha statue was shown in the background what would be blasphemic. Well, for the very tender feelings of those concerned people is to say following: First, in the same time official Thai politics fought a war on drugs in their own country, killing some 3.000 people, many of them had even nothing to do with drugs but were killed for other reasons at this good opportunity by their enemies in the police or elsewhere. That certainly gives Thailand a much better image, doesn't it? Second, there are frequently big parties in Thailands temples, when a lot of folk is coming together, drinking great amounts of alcohol, listening to extremely noisy music from six or eight megaloudspeakers, watching halfnaked girls dancing and singing on stages, watching box fightings, consuming from all the shops around and donating a lot of money for the temple (better for the abbot, who is as an unquestionable authority out of control and free to do with the money, what he wants). And that all on the templeground, with many Buddhaimages around. That's of course not considered as blasphemic; it's just good business, and that's everywhere holy in our contemporary global society.