Saturday, May 7, 2011

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, Thailand)

As Boonmee prepares to shuffle off this mortal coil he is haunted by loving spirits and visions of the past and future. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul allows the environment to become central to the story, the thick lush jungle, glittering cavern, or the sadly beautiful waterfall where an ugly Princess discovers happiness: we are creatures of the dirt and to the dirt our bodies go…but does something else live on?

The cinematography worships this vibrant jungle where jagged mountains poke like broken teeth and into this world are physical and metaphysical beings who exist: Weerasethakul presents them as people…not actors portraying people. The story is very simple as Boonmee plans for his death due to a kidney disorder and still tries to manage his small farm. His sister-in-law and her son arrive to help him and ease his suffering. It is a magical film without the requisite and insufferable self-pitying and guilt-ridden monologues that infect death stories. This concerns the natural order of things, so when his long dead wife materializes at the dinner table or his lost son, resurrected as a spirit monkey, visits him it is a bit surprising but not wholly unexpected: it seems entirely natural. In a poignant scene Boonmee reveals his embarrassment to his wife’s spirit because she is still 19 years younger and he has aged. Their embrace is a simple yet life affirming gesture. Absolutely beautiful.

Scenes of karmic intrigue become wonderful interludes, shadows of perception, like some whisper of secret and forbidden knowledge passed on to imitate the art of life. The story makes sense because it is about living and the truth of facing death without fear, for it is a truth we all must face. Just remember: Heaven is overrated.

Final Grade: (A)


Chase Kahn said...

Ah, can't wait to see it. I believe I'll get the opportunity in a few weeks.

Alex DeLarge said...

I've seen all of his films and this is my favorite. Watch it on blu-ray (if possible) because the visuals are absolutely beautiful and become an important part of the story.

Or if you're in Central PA just drop by and we'll watch it in the Korova:)