Newly released “The Serpent” – the latest production shot in Thailand, is a harrowing dramatisation of the life and crimes of French serial killer, thief and fraudster Charles Sobhraj.
Thailand has long been a favoured location for film-makers from around the world, attracted by the scenery, the weather, the ease of access, exotic sets, often depicted as scenes from other Asian destinations such as Vietnam or Cambodia, BBC’s ‘’The Serpent” features many scenes from Thailand, including in and around Hua Hin’s beaches.
Famous movies shot in full or in part in Thailand over the years
From historical cultural sites or temples through to martial arts, the intense Bangkok nightlife or Bangkok street scenes with buzzing tuk tuks or depictions of deplorable conditions inside a Thai prison; Thailand has long been a film maker’s paradise.
Hua Hin’s film career is not as prolific as the capital’s and it may be little known that Academy Award winning movie “The Killing Fields” (1984) starring Sam Waterston, Haing Ngor and John Malkovich was filmed in part in Hua Hin as stand-in for Cambodia.
The Killing Fields featured the historic Railway Hotel (now the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin), appearing as the Hotel Phnom Penh.
Inspired by real events, The Serpent tells the remarkable story of how the conman and murderer Charles Sobhraj (played by Tahar Rahim, star of A Prophet and Netflix’s The Eddy) was brought to justice and follows the cat and mouse chase between Sobhraj and a Dutch junior diplomat turned unofficial detective, Herman Knippenberg (played by Billy Howle), who is investigating the case of a missing young Dutch couple in Bangkok.
Posing as a gem dealer, Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (played by Jenna Coleman) travelled across Thailand, Nepal and India in 1975 and 1976, carrying out a spree of crimes on the Asian ‘Hippie Trail’ of Southeast Asia and becoming the chief suspects in a series of murders of young Western travellers.
Sobhraj was best known as the Bikini Killer due to the attire of his victims, as well as the Splitting Killer and The Serpent, due to his cunning deception and evasion. Sobhraj committed at least a dozen murders and was convicted and jailed in India from 1976 to 1997.
In November 1995, it was reported that an Australian couple, had met Sobhraj at a resort in Pattaya in September 1975, who then accompanied them to Hua Hin, where they stayed in adjoining rooms at the Railway Hotel.
The couple were given glasses of drugged chocolate milkshakes by Sobhraj, who robbed them of their passports, valuables and travellers’ cheques. Fortunately, a bellboy found the unconscious couple in their room and called the police, who took them to hospital for emergency treatment that almost certainly saved their lives.
The drama series is set across Southeast Asia, with some scenes in Nepal, India and Malaysia – Thailand and Hua Hin scenes recreates the woozy, haphazard atmosphere of the hippy trail and the leisurely life of European expats in Southeast Asia as stand-in locations as well as depicting real life events on-location.
Director Tom Shankland said “There were many discussions about where we might film it but right from the beginning, for me and for the whole gang, it had to be Thailand.”
“’We went to Hua Hin and a remarkable national park for a lake scene,” said Jenna Coleman, it was absolutely stunning there.” and Billy Howle said he felt “fortunate” to be “shooting in such a great part of the world.”
Back in 2016, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in Thailand had a stated aim to encourage international filmmakers to shoot more film productions in Thailand, an aim which may now be coming to fruition.
The then Tourism and Sports Minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, said she would like to attract foreign filmmakers to select Thailand as their film locations. “Film shoots bring income to the country, but also help to promote tourist attractions to the world and build awareness,” she explained.
Favoured potential locations included beaches, cultural destinations in North and Northeast Thailand and resorts along the Gulf of Thailand’s western coastline named as the Royal Coast, including Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Apart from locations, Thailand’s film industry has many quality artists, directors, actors, writers, producers and talented local production crews that have reached top international level with prizes from international critics and experts in the worldwide movie industry.
We are lucky to have both the locations and a large pool of talented people in Thailand which allows us to build teams of the highest caliber for any production.
The Serpent has just premiered on BBC One, is available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK, and watchable soon internationally on Netflix.
ROYAL COAST REVIEW – EDITORIAL