There are not many kings, that moonlight as film directors. King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia is just such a rare bird. He made more than a dozen feature films and over thirty documentaries. Some of the newer ones are ...展开even available on DVD, but the productions from the 1950s and 1960s, when Cambodia were considered to be the "Switzerland of Asia" (and before the Khmer Rouge systematically killed off the elite and wrecked the country) are hard to get.
In fact, I downloaded this piece from his Majestys website, where "Twilight" is available for viewing with the MS media player in little pieces. I pieced it together and converted it into .avi. The picture quality is awful, but is has english subtitles, even though they are hard to read at times. The smaller the window of your player, the better the film looks.
The film pretents to be a melodrama, but that narrative premise really just serves as an excuse to showcase the beauty of Angkor Wat, before it became the tourist attraction that it is today. The shots of Angkor-as-it-was, and the scenes of Cambodian country life in the late 1960s are what make this little film charming, but even the corny love story is somehow touching.
Here are some contemporary reviews from Indian newspapers (the leading lady is from India), taken from His Majestys website:
FESTIVAL TODAY, New Delhi, December 8 , 1969. Excerpts :
He is a real Prince among the film makers of the world. Scenario, dialogue and setting are by the Prince. The film is produced by the Société Nationale de Cinématographie du Cambodge. It is in Eastmancolour. Cameraman : Som Sam Ol.
An interesting feature of the film is that it has Indian background and has shown the cultural links between India and Cambodia. The following is the Synopsis of the story of "TWILIGHT" ("Crépuscule", in French). :
Prince ADIT, a retired General of the Royal Khmer Army, receives Maharani MAYA from India as his guest. The Prince is staying at his country residence in Siemreap. Adit and Maya came to know each other in New Delhi, where the Prince was his country's Military Attaché in the Cambodian Embassy. They were at a French Embassy reception and the beauty of Maharani MAYA dazzled ADIT. Since then he found himself deeply in love with the Maharani. ADIT invited both the MAHARAJA and the MAHARANI to visit Cambodia and see the temple of Angkor.
But ADIT had to return to his country after his tenure in New Delhi before his Princely friends could avail themselves of his invitation. On return to Cambodia, ADIT fell a victim to ill-times. His wife deserted him for a man, a young cinema star. ADIT himself was crippled by chronic malaria. He met with an accident to boot, which made him lame for life. Dejected and crestfallen, he was staying in his villa at Siemreap. The Government of Cambodia sent him a trained nurse who served him with devotion.
It was at this time that Maharani MAYA arrived as his guest. By now, She is a widow, having lost the Maharaja a year earlier. MAYA and ADIT go round the historic sites of Khmer civilization. Later, MAYA takes a trip to Phnom Penh for Cambodia's Independence Day celebrations. But ADIT could not accompany her as he fell ill again. The devoted nurse, SOPHEAP, helps him return to normalcy.
SOPHEAP, who came from Khmer peasant stock, was very loyal to the Royal family. ADIT’s ailing condition and the constant attention she bestows on him kindle flames of deep love for ADIT in SOPHEAP. But the Prince was totally unaware of the rumblings in her heart.
He was in a hurry to go to Phnom Penh to meet MAYA. ADIT discovers that his love for MAYA is amply riquetted. The nurse became wise about the relationship between Maya and Prince Adit.
Returning to Siemreap, ADIT falls ill again. This time MAYA replaces the nurse and stays at her lover's bed-side day and night to tend him. This draws them further close. On recovery, ADIT obliquely tells MAYA that he is in love with her. This was more than SOPHEAP, the nurse, could stomach. Rather than see ADIT go to MAYA, the nurse preferred to drown herself.
The worst tragedy was yet to strike ADIT. Maharani MAYA, returning to India, writes to tell him that the tragic death of the nurse is an obstacle to the fulfillment of their heart's desire.
Like the Sundown he had reached a point of no return.