Tea Lim Koun’s epic PUOS KENG KANG is the most well known film from the Cambodian “Golden Age” outside of the country itself. It opens with a half-hour prologue in which a young woman mates with a giant snake. When she becomes pregnant, her jealous husband plunges his sword into her belly and hundreds of snakes spew forth. One of them manages to escape the man’s attacks.
Years later, the snake has transformed into a handsome man (Chea Youthorn) and falls in love with a young woman (Dy Saveth) cast out by the intrigues of her stepmother, thus fulfilling the very prophecy the stepmother was trying to avert.
It is only the newly presented long version that truly shows the director’s narrative mastery. With patience and without a single dull minute, he weaves together the film’s different plot threads, repeatedly switches protagonists and transforms fairy tale topoi and folklore motifs into a genre-defining horror film. The scary witch with whom the wicked stepmother enters into a pact and the girl with snakes for hair who breaks the curse at the end are both truly unforgettable. The surprisingly forthright eroticism is equally striking, playing no small part in the film’s success.
Cambodia 1970, 164 min
Tea Lim Koun
© Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin