“Memoria”, the meditation oasis of Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Memoria ***

by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

International co-production, 2:13

In theaters in November

In Cannes, the days go by and are not alike. After the fireworks of pretentious works, like Titanium by Julia Ducournau, redundant and already seen stories, Red rocket of the American Sean Baker, the competition was offered Thursday, July 15 a welcome break with Memoria of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

And yet the film by the Thai filmmaker, winner of a controversial Palme d’Or in 2010 for the enigmatic Uncle Boonmee, the one who remembers his past lives, begins under disturbing auspices. Jessica (the formidable Tilda Swinton), a melancholy fifty-something living in Colombia, is woken up with a start by a metallic and deaf noise, a big mysterious “bang” which pushes her to get up to verify that she has not dreamed it. But all is calm in his apartment.

→ READ. Uncle Boonmee, an incomprehensible Palme d’Or

It is in his head that things are jostling. This sound, which she is the only one to hear on a regular basis, is it the alarm signal sent by her mind to this recently bereaved woman? A botanist specializing in orchids, Jessica investigates this strange phenomenon as a scientist, seeking to identify it with a sound engineer. But the latter disappears, as if he had never existed …

Languor and length create a fascinating atmosphere

Memoria is not a thriller, despite the real suspense that surrounds the sonic hallucinations of its main character. Filmed in a fixed shot, according to two frame scales only (character full-length or mid-thigh), the scenes are like a succession of tableaux where what is said, like what is silent, has more importance than action itself. Paradoxically, the languor of the film is not for all that boring and the length of the shots ends up installing a fascinating meditative atmosphere. Apichatpong Weerasethakul has made it his trademark.

So far, the Thai director has been exploring the relationship with ghosts in his country. In Uncle Boonmee, the one who remembers his past lives, he told the story of a man conversing with his dead wife and missing son. In Memoria, it is the tangle of individual and collective memories that Jessica explores, when she subsequently travels to the Colombian countryside in the company of a French archaeologist – Jeanne Balibar, surprisingly restrained.

Sensory experience

These reminiscences are those of her recently deceased relatives, those she has never known and that her friend unearths during a search, but also those of the animals and stones that she crosses on her path. A roaming that takes on the appearance of intoxicating and disturbing drift.

Sensory experience, Memoria is the fruit of an animist spirituality which sees in every element of the world a living spirit, a soul, which Apichatpong Weerasethakul tries – and often manages – to make appear on the screen. Isn’t that the magic of the cinematographic illusion to put in images the invisible links of this world?

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“Memoria”, the meditation oasis of Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Hank Gilbert