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The Legend of Suriyothai

2003

A story of intrigue, romance and war set in a dramatic period of Siam's history,

"The Legend of Suriyothai" begins during a peaceful era, but forces from both outside (Thailand's neighbor Burma to the north) and within conspire to test the strength of the nation.

Filmed at spectacular locations throughout Thailand, with a true "cast of thousands", this Cecil B. DeMille-sized epic chronicles the life of Suriyothai, a beautiful young princess, who must choose between marrying her true love, a gallant young warrior named Piren, or doing her duty to wed Prince Tien, the son of the "second king," in a marriage arranged by their two very powerful families.

As the story unfolds, the Thai kingdom of Ayuthaya is enjoying a period of peace and prosperity, but the country's stability will be threatened by corruption and civil war. Colossal battle scenes with archers atop elephants, bare-breasted amazon fighters armed with spears, and invading Burmese legions firing cannons, are photographed on a scale not seen in the cinema for decades. Written and directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol, a prince in the Thai royal family, the film was made with the support of Thailand's Queen Sirikit.

Palace intrigues and deceptions abound, with memorable characters and plot twists: one king who takes the throne in a coup d'etat is then deceived by his beautiful new wife, a former high courtesan named Srisudachan. She plots her husband's downfall, pushing her lover Worawongsa to usurp the throne, and to restore her clan, the U-Thong, in its claim to power.

A band of loyalists joins Princess Suriyothai to assassinate the pretenders Srisudachan and Worawongsa, and to restore the monarchy in a daring sneak attack. Tien leaves the priesthood to become king, and to reunify Siam. In a dramatic finale to the film, the Burmese invade Ayuthaya. Queen Suriyothai heroically rides an elephant into battle and dies in a valiant effort to save both her country and her husband's life. The life of Suriyothai has become a legend.

Cast
Queen Suriyothai M. L. Piyapas Bhirombhakdi
King Mahachakrepat Saranyu Wongkrachang
King Dhammaraja Chatchai Plengpanich
Baron Rachasineha Sorapong Chatree
Srisudachan Mai Charoenpura
Lord Worawongsa Johnny Enfone
King Chairacha Pongpat Wachirabunjong
Akrachaya, The Royal Consort Wannasa Thongviset
Crew
Editor Chatrichalerm Yukol
  Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematographer Stanislav Dorsic
  Igor Luther

NOTES

Historical Notes

Spanning more than half a century, Suriyothai is a story of a country's survival. It depicts the history of the Thai kingdom, Ayuthaya from the reign of King Ramathibodhi II to the great battle with King Tabinshwethi of Burma in 1548.

Ayuthaya's peace and prosperity was dependent on the descendants of four royal dynasties: Suphannabumi, U-thong, Phra Ruang and Sri Thammasokaraj. Regardless of which family held power, the stability of the regime depended on the support and cooperation of the other royal households.

During the reign of King Ramathibodhi II the kingdom had two monarchs: Ramathibodhi II in the south and his younger brother Phra Athitaya in the north. Both were descendents of the Suphannabumi dynasty.

At the beginning of the film, we meet two members of the Phra Ruang dynasty--Suriyothai and Piren--whose fates will be joined throughout the story. Raised together since childhood, Suriyothai, and Piren were regarded as brother and sister even though they were not related. Despite their love for one another, marriage was out of the question since Suriyothai was betrothed to Tien, the son of King Athitaya. Their union was seen as a political marriageone that would strengthen the ties between two very powerful royal families.

In 1529, King Ramathibodhi II died and the resulting changes in the kingdom's political structure severely tested its stability. King Athitaya, moved to the north, and Chairacha (the son of Ramathibodhi II) became, by royal decree, ruler of the south. Tien moved north with his father bringing Suriyothai and his children. A smallpox epidemic, political corruption, civil war and an invading army from Burma plunged the country into chaos. In the midst of the anarchy, Chairacha reestablished himself as ruler. But he was a Warrior king and was often away protecting his country from neighboring armies. So it was Tien, in the role of viceroy, who was assigned the task of administering the nation's affairs. But he could not control Srisudachan, Chairacha's courtesan from the U-thong dynasty who, during his absence, began a love affair with an U-Thong member of the royal household. Together Srisudachan and her paramour plotted the successful assassination of her husband the king and Srisudachan was made queen.

Throughout this turmoil, Suriyothai was preoccupied with the safety of her children and her husband. She took part in a plot to overthrow the new king and queen so that Ayuthaya could return to peace and order. She called upon her childhood friend Piren who mobilized the armies, deposed the king and installed Tien on the throne, with Suriyothai as his queen.

News of this internal strife came to the attention of the King of Burma who assembled troops, crossed the border and surrounded the capital of Ayuthaya. A fierce battle ensued and when her husband faced certain death, Suriyothai placed herself in front of Tiien and died in battle to insure the safety and future of her country.

Production Facts

Yukol is a member of the Thai royal family; he carries the title of prince.

Original Thai version was released in Thailand on July 12, 2001. It broke all box office records.

Film was funded and largely supported by the Queen of Thailand for the purpose of educating a new generation of Thais about their history.

Film was researched for 5 years.

17 months were spent in actual production.

The Queen of Thailand personally inaugurated the first day of photography.

Battle sequences - Thai army and navy were conscripted by the thousands.

160 elephants were used in the production.

The International crew, included a Czech and Polish camera department, American and English sound department, English composer.

All props were made from scratch; including authentic 16th century European, Thai and Burmese weapons.

Locations (including palaces and royal grounds) were actual historical sites.

Many scenes were shot in and around the ruins of the ancient capital Ayuthaya.

The 6-channel Dolby digital soundtrack was edited and mixed at Francis Coppola's American Zoetrope post facility in the Napa Valley.


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