The book on which this movie was based is a compulsory read in most Cambodian schools. This is alarming, considering that the story shows a textbook perfect psychopath conman as a positive figure from his adolescent lies until cheating his way up to the Royal Court.
The movie starts with depicting Ah Lev as a handsome young guy, who is charming and very good at using sweet tongue if he wants to get something. In the scene the palm vine harvester can see through his manipulative behavior yet gives him a free drink while makes it clear that he will never fall victim to Ah Lev's smooth talking.
Ah Lev convinces his mother that his father is dead. Meanwhile, convinces his father that his mother is dead (the parents live separate for the father lives near the rice fields and the mother in the village). He does it for the sole reason of being hungry and wants to eat funeral food which is better than the every day food he has. So by cheating both parents he can eat that food twice. Fortunately he does not kill any of them for making sure the funerals happen. Later he convinces both grieving parents to marry again although both of them don't want it. But this fact is no way a problem for Ah Lev who sees the wedding as a chance to eat a lot again. He arranges the wedding of the parents by telling them a lie that he has found very similar person to the deceased. He gets the village to pay for everything similarly to the funerals. Not because of this but being worried about the anger of his parents, he runs away before the parents see each other again. Naturally he doesn't forget to steal all the wedding food which later he eats. Upon finishing the food he decides to go to the pagoda for further freebies, such as studying letters and numbers, apparently for being even better conman later. He lies to the monks about his life, telling them that his parents are dead. He is very easy on the death of his parents.
In the pagoda he prepares for a bigger gig when he spots out the savings of a monk. He decides that he will put his hands on all of that money.
He seems to be very good in understanding people and knows how to manipulate them, so he offers the monk to arrange a sex date for him with a woman in exchange for one baht (obviously not the Thai baht of these days). Meanwhile he approaches the rich Chinese merchant in the village, who has lost his wife a while ago. Ah Lev offers sex date with a woman to the merchant, too. He charges two baths this time.
When the time for the sex dates come Ah Lev asks both men to wear veils to cover their face. Then he takes both of them to the same place and let them cuddle, until they realize they are cuddling another man instead of the promised women.
The next scene shows the disappointed monk slightly scolding Ah Lev who blatantly blackmails the monk by telling him that his misbehavior regarding sex will be reported to the authorities and his clerical superiors as well, he will be expelled and all the hell breaks loose - unless the monk gives him all his money.
The movie is extremely primitive and incredibly boring, only keeps the audience staring because one just can't believe his eyes that such a criminal and immoral behavior is shown as something not only funny but to be followed and the guy is set for an idol in this film. The Khmer Robin Hood.
Just in bullet points more of his actions / crimes in the rest of the movie are as follows:
- kidnapping a virgin girl to consummate marriage
- once done with the girl he makes fool of a dozen illiterates who are pretending to be pirates
- abandoning his young wife he shows up in the garden of a rich man to entertain and charm his daughter, using whom he becomes the trusted assistant of the rich man who is incidentally an important person in the royal court
- he finally scams a number of ministers in the royal government by forgery of some documents
And that's how the movie is over for the viewer's utmost relief.
This character does everything that is expected from a psychopath / sociopath. Lies, conning, manipulation, theft, fraud, forgery, blackmailing while he cannot care less for the people involved and affected, including his own parents. This piece of a scumbag is then shown as a smart person to follow. Sickening end. I expected at least karma to kick in or Ah Lev to find his guy who gives him a good one at least once. Never happened, the only person that he wasn't able to cheat remains on the palm tree.Sovann Makura