Cambodia’s Creature Features
Part II: The Snake King’s Child
The Snake King’s Child
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge and when the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic took control, cinemas were re-opened showing foreign films from Vietnam, the Soviet Union, Hindi films from India and action movies from Hong Kong. However the steady diet of pro-Soviet films focused on class struggles and socialist realism grew tiresome and Cambodian audiences demanded something with a more Cambodian flare.
Many sources wrongly state that The Snake King’s Child was the first feature film produced after the Khmer Rouge, whereas in actuality, Cambodian cinema actually resumed production of feature films in 1980 – 1 year after the end of the Khmer Regime and 21 years before TSKC’s release. The distinction of being the very first post-Regime Cambodian film belongs to My Mother is Arb (Kon Aeuy Madhi Ahp or Krasue Mom).
MMiA follows a young man who discovers that his mother is secretly an Arb/ Arp (a ghost with a woman’s head connected only to her viscera) and whilst pretending to her that he doesn’t know, living in the fear that his is in danger, his future is in jeopardy and that his mother’s secret may be discovered by others. MMiA was heavily based on Khmer folklore and after the attempted cultural erasure of the Khmer Regime, was very popular. Continue reading
Cambodia’s Creature Features
Part I: The Snake King’s Wife
Cambodia is a small country in Southeast Asia that borders Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. During the 50’s and 60’s, Cambodian film production and cinema was a booming industry with millions of patrons flooding to the big cities to watch the latest Cambodian hits.
One of the most financially successful and critically acclaimed movies of this period was the creature feature The Snake King’s Wife (Puos Keng Kang)). Produced in 1971 and based around the popular Cambodian myth of a Snake Goddess, TSKW was unlike anything that Cambodia had ever seen and the plot goes a little something like this:
A young villager has an affair with the Snake King (a shape shifting python) which results in her getting pregnant. When her husband finds out, he murders her which caused her to give birth to hundreds of baby snakes. The husband attempts to kill all the snakes but one escapes and is transformed into a human baby by a local hermit. The child, Veasna, grows up to be a very handsome man and falls in love with a wealthy man’s daughter, Soriya. Despite being turned back into a snake by a witch hired by the daughter’s stepmother (jealous as she is also madly in love with Vaesna), they get married and have a child, Cantra. Cursed by the witch to have snakes instead of hair (a gorgon, by Greek standards), Cantra seeks revenge on the witch when her father is turned to stone and her mother succumbs to psychosis. After burning the witch alive, all of the curses are lifted with Vaesna and Soriya returning to normal and Cantra’s snakes becoming long, beautiful hair. Continue reading