A hospital full of sleeping soldiers is haunted by matters both historical and intensely personal in the latest gentle and entrancingly beautiful cinematic enigma from the Thai Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
No one weaves past and present, the spiritual and the animal, the mundane and the divine, with the serene dream logic of Thai filmmaker and artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul. His first feature-length film since Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (which won Cannes in 2010) unfolds its enigmas in a hospital where soldiers succumbing to a sleeping sickness are tended by a benevolent volunteer. Her strong sense of spiritual affinity with one soldier is explored amidst manifestations of the location’s past – as a schoolhouse, and a cemetery of kings. But in Apichatpong’s world no one is surprised by the uncanny: goddesses may desert their shrine to head off for a spot of shopping.
“Perhaps it’s an attempt to describe and to achieve synchronicity, a desire to sleep someone else’s sleep, dream their dream, live their history, see their vision (right down to the microbe-y shapes that float across your eye when you stare into the sun). Or perhaps it’s none of those things, or only some. I can’t pretend to have any definitive ideas on its meaning, only its effect: I was spellbound.
Its sleep motif will undoubtedly strike many as apt, because this is a slow, strange film, and if you have an immunity to its trancelike effects (it invades a little like a benign virus), you may well drift away. But if you are susceptible and trusting enough to let the film gently occupy you, you will have something glorious and quiet to keep for yourself. Just please, for the love of all things holy, of which this film may very well be one, see it in a cinema.” — Jessica Kiang, The Playlist