The first thing I must confess is that I lost a losing battle to fatigue for the first (and so far only) time at this year's fest to a movie that was clearly better than that; but many great films are also slow-moving to the point of lethargy when you're not pulling all nighter's one after the other like you're still an energetic college student, in the desperate hope of keeping up with various viewing and blogging obligations. So I missed about half of the movie, right in the middle.

But what I did see was altogether odd and fascinating, starting with one hell of an opening shot: for several minutes (one of these days, I'm going to have to start bringing a stopwatch to movies), the camera wanders around the Thai jungle, looking this way and that at nothing in particular, at one point wandering past two men chasing a half-naked woman through the underbrush but not really stopping to comment on that fact. Eventually the camera hops (not quite seamlessly) onto a crane, and moves out over a river, where we see - also without comment - the bodies of those two men floating lifelessly in the water. It's, with very little competition, the most accomplished & nervy opening shot I've seen all year; sort of a "hey, look at ME!" bit of posturing, but that's good for the soul every now and then, right?

Of what I saw, it didn't seem that anything else was going to live up to that level of stupidly ambitious filmmaking, although in another respect, that opening shot clearly set the tone for what was to follow: Nymph is first and above all a movie about its jungle setting, and the question of what happens is not vaguely as important as where it happens. Though as much as I can tell (and to be honest, I think that I got back up to speed pretty well once I awoke), here is what does happen: May (Wanida Termthanaporn) and her husband Nop (Jayanama Nopachai) are out camping when he finds a tree nymph (Porntip Papanai) and is abducted/seduced away. May cannot find him, until she does (this is where the impromptu nap really hurt), and eventually he is reborn, after a fashion, having been given a clearer idea of what is valuable in life through his experiences.

Mostly, though, it's a reflective mood piece, creating a very particular image of the jungle that transcends narrative or even meaning; it is simply about the experience of a place so otherworldly by its very nature that we've started to feel spirits and ghosts even before the spirit world intrudes into the plot. Writer-director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (of the marvelous, underseen The Last Life in the Universe) does a fantastic job at capturing the sights and sounds of his location in precise detail without ever seeming fussy about it, and the mere presence of the jungle is so profound as to be overwhelming - at times it almost feels like we're watching a horror movie, so oppressive does the great green mass become. Setting as mood and setting as theme makes for a rather inscrutable kind of cinema, of course, but everything I saw in Nymph was hypnotic and beautiful.

No rating, but my feeling is that it was on track for a 3.5