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Entry updated 6 March 2024. Tagged: Film.

Film (2021), a joint Columbia / UK / Germany / Thailand / Taiwan / US / Mexico project. Kick the Machine, Burning Illuminations Films (Past Lives), Anna Sanders Films, Match Factory Productions, Piano, Xstream PIctures, iQIYI Pictures, Titan Creative Entertainment, Rediance, ZDF, Arte, Louverture Films, Doha Film Institute, Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation, Bord Cadre Films, Sovereign Films, Field of Vision, 185 Films. Written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (1970-    ). Cast includes Jeanne Balibar, Agnes Brekke, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Tilda Swinton and Juan Pablo Urrego. Colour. 136 minutes.

Jessica (Swinton) is a British botanist living in Columbia, where her sister Karen (Brekke) is in hospital after attempting to make contact with a tribe who can allegedly use Magic to "disappear" anyone who comes near them. One night Jessica is woken by a deep, loud bang which it appears no one else has heard. In the hospital she visits an excavation project which has unearthed bodies that may have died in an attempt to remove spirits from them. Continually hearing the sound when no one else does (though it does seem to set off car alarms), she enlists the help of sound engineer Hernan (Urrego) who is able to recreate it for her. They agree to go on a trip together, but when she goes to the studio to pick him up, the other people working there have never heard of him. Visiting the countryside alone, she encounters another, older Hernan (Diaz) who claims to have complete memory recall of everything he sees and hears. While holding hands with him, Jessica accesses his Memories, and finds hers mixing with his. She then hears the sound again, this time revealed to be a previously camouflaged Spaceship taking off from a nearby jungle. This causes an earthquake which uncovers more of the archaeological excavation.

The highly distinctive, enigmatic films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul have won many international awards, and often contain fantastical or supernatural elements. This is the first of his feature films that could be classified as sf, though its relationship to genre is tangential. Filmed largely in long or medium shot, often with a static camera, it exudes a sense of alienness that mirrors the exploration of an unfamiliar landscape by lead character, director (it is his first film shot outside his native Thailand, and in English and Spanish) and audience. All seems to happen in a dream state, as Jessica wanders a Bogotá weirdly desaturated of colour and sound, even among the crowds, and the complex sound design guides the film as much as story or character (with the exception of David Lynch, few directors pay more attention to the importance of non-musical sound in their films). The end sequence, with two characters' memories intertwining and the departing spaceship, partially shot in slow motion without sound, has the force of a revelation, even it is not easily explicable on a narrative level. Memoria won the Jury Prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. [CWa]


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