Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Memoria

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Reviews - Memoria


Reviewed By Stephen Pye

About ten years ago the Thai film director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, started to experience a loud "bang"; no one else could hear them. He was eventually diagnosed with "exploding head syndrome" an inelegant description of a psycho-physical manifestation, though, whilst rare, is well attested to; it can be both unnerving and frightening for the sufferer.

In 2017 he travelled to Columbia to make his first film outside his native Thailand; the film stars Scottish actor Tilda Swinton, who had long sought to act for Apichatpong. The movie was three years in the making, involving several trips to Bogota and a small village, Pijao.

The film is ostensibly an exploration of the director's ongoing condition brilliantly realised by Tilda Swinton. It consists of long slow takes set both in Bogota and in the Columbian countryside where the lushness of the rainforest lends itself to the essential "slowness" of the cinematography.

It seems that Weerasethakul is attempting to interpret these frequent "bangs" ecologically. We are out of sync with creation and our ability to stop and listen is increasingly threatened, as threatened as the rainforest itself.

As Weerasethakul was making the film and filming in Pijao the "banging" in his head stopped: "as I was making Memoria the morning 'bang' disappeared. With it the precious, murky, drifting realm was gone".

Clearly though his "recovery" left him with many questions about the workings of the subconscious mind. In Zen Buddhist terms it also left him wondering if it was possible to stand outside one's own experience. Nothingness might mean freedom. The heart of the film is then an exploration of memory and how we can share other people's memories and in so doing still our minds.

It is essentially a 'wakeup call' for us all, a "bang" sounding in our own skulls. A call to reflect deeply on our experience and see it rooted in the wonder of the natural world, a world threatened by the cacophony of our species.

The film left our audience divided as to its merits. The film will never be streamed and is unlikely to appear on DVD. The wish of this brilliant director being that the film is for the cinema alone.

Some of us felt privileged to see it.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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