Pascal Grenier for Cinetalk.net
Always at the edge of experimental cinema, the films of Thai director Apichatpong Weesatherakul are always a challenge for moviegoers. With his hypnotic slowness, a deliberately languid pacing and some scenes that alternates between reality and fantasy, his films are best appreciated by the art crowd whom many consider him a master of contemporary and abstract cinema.
A group of soldiers in a small town on the Mekong River in Northern Thailand are suffering from a mysterious disease and transferred to a temporary hospital set up in an abandoned school. With the help of a young medium, an aging woman tries to solve the mystery surrounding this bizarre sleeping illness.
In his new opus, the director goes back to his fantastic roots (like for Syndromes of a Century in 2006 or the second part of Tropical Malady) and brings his most political (yet allegorical) film to date. All his cherished themes are here: illness, hospitals, religious beliefs and, of course, the symptomatic contrast between human and his surrounding landscape. It is a brilliant metaphor to dormant Thai people since the military dictatorship is back in force after the upbringing coup of May 2014.
More linear than before, Cemetery of Splendour still has a slow and contemplative rhythm that may not be to everyone’s taste. But if you’re in for an immersion into his singular and haunting world, you’ll find that triviality mingled with spirituality ; that light therapy is the link between deep-rooted traditions and modernity that is increasingly growing and invasive. It is a gorgeous film, haunting us well beyond the end of the screening.