Memoria Review – Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tilda Swinton make up a dream team


TThai artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul offers us his own exaltation and his own abolition of gravity; he stares at you with his uninterrupted gaze and its meaning seems to float off the screen – and you float out of your cinema seat to meet it. In calmly realistic, non-mystical cinematic language, this director can truly convince you that the living and the dead, the past and the present, the earthly and the other, coexist. Memoria is a beautiful and mysterious movie, a slow movie that slows down your heart rate.

For some, the andante tempo, with its icy long silent takes, will infuriate – and opinions can be divided over the extraordinary ending of the sci-fi epiphany. Even now, I’m not sure what to think of it. But what originality and daring, the greatest ideas invoked with convincing Zen humility. Weerasekathul is an artist who demands that you return your thoughts to the unresolved and unspoken mysteries of existence: that we are born, live, die and all without ever knowing why, or often even wanting to know. But he approaches these phenomena as calmly as he can approach questions of agriculture or engineering.

This is the first film Weerasethakul has made outside of Thailand and with non-Thai distribution. The setting is Colombia, and Tilda Swinton plays Jessica, an expatriate Englishwoman who lives in Medellín and runs a market gardening business selling flowers; she is in Bogotá to visit her sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) and her husband, Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho, from Zama de Lucrecia Martel), because Karen is ill in hospital with a mysterious respiratory illness. One night, Jessica is awakened from sleep by a strange bang or sonic boom. What’s going on? There is no construction nearby. And apparently only Jessica can hear that sound.

She goes out to dinner at a restaurant with Karen and Juan, and she hears the sound again, as clear as gunshots, but realizes that no one else knows, so she just has to keep talking. It is one of the most disturbing scenes I have seen in the cinema lately. The sounds seem to be forebodings or symptoms of a profound change in the world, and she has been singled out as the only person in the know – a strange annunciation. Could it have something to do with the ancient bones that were unearthed in the city? Or does Jessica go into a metempsychotic depression?

Experience outside the body… Memoria. Photographie : © Kick the Machine Films, Burning, Anna Sanders Films, Match Factory Productions, ZDF-Arte et Piano, 2021

She visits a friend’s pupil in a recording studio: Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego) and asks him if he can digitally recreate the noise, which he does, then plays him the music he is playing on. work. They seem to be on the verge of some kind of romantic relationship, when she arrives at the studio to be told by baffled engineers that no one named has ever worked there. But later she will meet an older man, also called Hernán (Elkin Diaz) who could be her reincarnated spirit and who, like Funes the Memorial in Borges’ story, says he never left his village because that he remembers everything that happened. to him and cannot risk being overwhelmed. As she talks to Hernán, recovered memories spring up in her consciousness, as if she is tapping into a long-lost radio frequency. But are they his memories?

Memoria is an out-of-body experience that you need to gain step by step. Any fan of this director, with his enigmatic realistic and mystical masterpieces such as Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives will basically know what to expect. But he is still able to amaze you, once again. I’m not kidding when I say watching this movie reminded me of when I was 17, hearing Revolution 9 on The White Album for the first time. It left a residue of happiness in my heart.


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