May 6, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Film Review: The Serpent

8 One-Hour Episodes
Miniseries Released April 2nd on Netflix

The Serpent is an intense miniseries based on the horrific true story of Charles Sobhraj who masterminded a string of murders of unsuspecting hippie travelers in Thailand in the mid 1970’s. In the late 1960’s-1970’s, travel to Buddhist countries was popular among young people who considered themselves social outliers. They often looked to Eastern practices such as Buddhism and Yoga, in addition to drugs, in the quest to expand their perception of existence. Many were inspired to delve into cultures worlds apart from the strict social traditions of their upbringing. Some of my friends traveled to exotic realms in an effort to reach a higher enlightenment. This journey became known as the “Hippie Trail.” They were for the most part innocent and inexperienced, and full of trust in the goodness of humanity. They often traveled without means, hitchhiking and relying on the hospitality of strangers. Luckily my friends all came back alive with their health intact. This was not the case for the victims whose stories play out in The Serpent.

This production survived in spite of extreme odds. The shoot began in October 2019 in Thailand and was then shut down for five months during the pandemic. Filming was moved to England and completed in August 2020. The timeline in The Serpent flips back and forth in flashbacks and is a bit jarring at first. There were three different cinematographers and four editors on the project. The jumping timeline would have been extremely distracting if it weren’t for the solid acting by the well-chosen cast. The characters, even those who are only on screen for a few minutes, are so distinct and poignant that this story will haunt you.

Charles Sobhraj was a profoundly disconnected individual who was said to harbor an unexplained loathing of hippies. Sobhraj was born in Vietnam to an Indian father and Vietnamese mother. His parents divorced early in his life. His mother remarried and the stepfather’s children were favored. The family moved often between Indochina and France. In his teens Sobhraj began a life of petty crime and brilliant deception. He was described as “handsome, charming and utterly without scruple.” Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian) as Sobhraj has superb depth and a completely malleable façade similar to the talents of Christian Bale. He is also a master of languages. Rahim was able to convey Sobhraj’s absolute detachment, and at the same time the captivating magnetism that allowed him to gain the trust of his victims. 

Billy Howle adeptly plays young Dutch diplomat turned self-appointed eager gumshoe “Herman Knippenberg,” Jenna Coleman had to learn French phonetically to play “Marie-Andree.” To absorb the character, she read Marie-Andree’s actual diaries. Amesh Edireweera, who plays Sobhraj’s volatile associate “Ajay,” is a fine Shakespearean actor with little on camera experience. He was able to find a tape by Ajay’s real parents. “…the greatest shock was hearing his parents talk about him,” Edireweera said. “I listened to Ajay’s mother talk about ‘her boy’ … the love that she still showed for him in spite of everything…I felt a real sense of sorrow for the family.” 

The Serpent is not just a horrific murder mystery. It’s a study co-dependence, denial, and of how hideous actions can become normalized when repeated over and over. You may even feel desensitized as you watch the story unfold. Sobhraj got away with atrocious crimes because of corruption and poor communications between international governments and police.

Charles Sobhraj is still alive, imprisoned in Nepal. His critical personality dysfunction and life story are reminiscent of another Charles who committed similar heinous crimes just a few years prior to the events of The Serpent.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

in News
Related Posts

Riviera Mansion on Market for $25 Million

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

 6 bedroom, 10 bathroom Riviera mansion hits market  By Chad Winthrop A nearly century-old Riviera mansion complete with a speakeasy...

Venice’s Fox Theater Revamp

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

A developer wants to revamp the historic Fox Theater building in Venice. Learn more in this video made possible by...

Edify TV: Site Work Begins on Nearly Billion Dollar LAX Station

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

Site work has begun for a nearly billion dollar light rail transit station coming to LAX. Learn more in this...

Nearly 50-Unit Affordable Housing Complex Breaks Ground in Santa Monica

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

Development combines retail and residential units  By Toi Creel A 50-unit affordable housing complex recently broke ground in Santa Monica’s...

Edify TV: Concert Capacity Rules Issue for Small Venues

May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021

Live music is back in LA County but the owner of a Westside jazz club says reopening will have to...

Santa Monica City Council Gives Green Light to Pursue Main Street Closures

May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Lawmakers instruct staff to develop proposal that would close Main Street to vehicles on weekends By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica’s...

Rents on The Rise In Santa Monica: Santa Monica Beat – May, 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Rents on The Rise In Santa Monica * Natural Gas Leak...

Woman Killed by Vehicle on 10 Freeway in Santa Monica

May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Victim struck at Cloverfield Boulevard on-ramp Sunday night By Sam Catanzaro A woman was struck and killed by a vehicle...

Santa Monica Police Use Naloxone to Save Overdose Victim in Park

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

SMPD save woman who has overdosed on Oxocodone By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police used Naloxone to save a woman...

Edify TV: Could Penmar Golf Course Become Affordable Housing?

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

Under a state bill facilities like Penmar golf course could be converted into space for affordable housing. Learn more in...

Hard Kombucha Tasting Room Opens on Main Street

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

JuneShine opens on Main Street in Santa Monica Toi Creel A hard kombucha tasting room has opened on Main Street...

Italian-Style Raw Seafood Bar Comes to Santa Monica

April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

Crudo e Nudo, a new Italian-style raw seafood bar on the Westside offers sustainably sourced fresh fish, shellfish and crustaceans....

Heal the Bay Aquarium Under Santa Monica Pier Reopens

April 27, 2021

April 27, 2021

Aquarium opens with patio exhibits for weekends By Sam Catanzaro The Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier...

Santa Monica College Student Film to be Screened at Cannes

April 27, 2021

April 27, 2021

SMC student film “Broken Layers” accepted into The American Pavilion at Cannes By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica College (SMC) student...