Today marks the last installment of “Making Till We Meet Again“, a series of interviews with the creators of the award-winning indie film in question. Focused on a handful of tourists making their way through Thailand, many of the questions and answers to date [with director Bank Tangjaitrong and actor/writer Johan Matton] have revolved around depicting another country and culture given that framework.
Actor Emrhys Cooper is the last person to share with us, in particular about how both he and his character, David, have experienced being in the South East Asian country as visitors and guests. Fair warning, this interview contains mild spoilers for Till We Meet Again.
David tells Joanna that being in Thailand “realigns you with who you really are.” Had you been there prior to filming Till We Meet Again? Do you think there’s any truth to that?
Yes, for many reasons South East Asia has pulled me into its orbit. That powerful land mass includes a major portion of this planet’s populations, including both India and China which are the two of the most densely populated nations on earth.
At the naïve age of 18 I went on a backpacking tour of Thailand. What an incredible experience that was. Then, in 2013, I was back again as I was cast in a movie called Kushuthara which shot in Bhutan. That’s a tiny country located up in the Himalayan mountains between India and China; one must go via Bangkok to get there.
This year I returned to Thailand to shoot another movie in Bhutan. I was lucky to get to spend New Year’s Day in Bangkok, followed by an impromptu trip to Vietnam. When I finished shooting in Bhutan I went to Cambodia, which is a country any person interested in animal protection should see. The elephant sanctuary reminds us that we are not God’s greatest creatures, but only the caretakers of his best and most precious treasures. To hear and see an elephant in all its glory, means more than any person’s hug or kiss. All human beings who value our animal companions, both great and small, should understand this.
Traveling helps realign you; travellers look to find themselves or something that will help them grow. In that sense, traveling is one of the greatest therapies. It belongs alongside the couch of Sigmund Freud as a great tool for our minds, to escape from a solely interior world.
Seeing each other in Southeast Asia is actually a means of reconnecting for both David and Joanna, which brings to mind the title of the film. She describes meeting up with people when you’re abroad as “an obligation”. Do you think David feels the same way? What expectations did he have for their meeting?
David does not see it as an obligation, as he has had feelings for Joanna since they met a long time ago, but their “timing” was always off. Everyone who is part of a relationship, be they a couple or married, knows that feeling. They are “together”, but not in-sync. The movie continues this train of thought.
There’s a famous saying that essentially boils down to “a villain never sees themselves as one”, meaning they are not aware of their villainy. This could be said of David. How would you say he views himself, at least in the context of Eric and Joanna’s relationship?
Correct, the plot is not really complicated, but it has twists. David doesn’t think he is doing anything wrong. Not at all! He’s very respectful of Joanna, but he gradually develops deeper feelings. Once David sees Erik at the night market with a girl he decides to keep that information from Joanna to “protect her”, or so he rationalizes. This also allows him to take his own relationship with her to the next level.
David’s a little bit of a player himself and Joanna has a cold demeanor, this only spurs him to want her more. He’s used to getting what he wants, his ego is definitely bruised when she decides to leave him to go back to Erik.
Need and loneliness are definitely themes in Till We Meet Again. Would you say that David needs Joanna, and is being alone something he struggles with?
Yes, David is slightly lonely there. He’s been traveling alone and he wants to experience the adventure with someone special.
They need each other to grow. Even when a relationship is short, and doesn’t work out well, it can still affect any of us in a deep and profound way. We should be grateful for that as well. All this represents a theme spelled out so early by the British poet, John Donne. Most of us will remember so these soul-searching and sweeping lines from our youthful school years:
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.”
It’s funny that the term “Ugly American” kept coming to mind when I viewed the way David tended to navigate Thailand, given that both you and your character are British. That said it’s also surprising that he’s the first character to speak Thai, albeit rather poorly. How would you describe the way he interacts with the country and its people, and how might you do it different [if at all?]?
David is definitely a little cocky, in that sense he parallels the “Ugly American”, which was a phrase intended to convey American exceptionality, or the assumed superiority of American manhood. In this case perhaps it is Anglo-American manhood. Yes, he feels he is entitled to “respect,” but let’s conclude this comes only from insecurity, which in turn developed because he achieved little from what he wanted in life. He believes they’re entitled because he’s in Thailand spending money, when most people cannot. Many of us know such people. They aren’t so great, but they think they are.
Such individuals are only snobs at best. One should feel extremely lucky to be traveling and experiencing other cultures. Showing gratitude to hosts represents the best of human nature. As a “Brit” I only represent the deep richness of an island history going back over 1,000 years. This was my ancestor’s achievements, not my own, and the best British attitude is one of humility and respect for others.
Till We Meet Again is now available on VOD, and is available on iTunes as well as other online services. You can keep up to date with Emrhys Cooper by checking him out on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.