Movie Pick of the Week


of Splendour

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethal

Year of release: 2016

Running time: 2 hr 2 minutes

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour is a glacially-paced, hauntingly meditative, and surprisingly powerful film taking place inside a Thailand hospital where a mysterious sleeping illness has gripped the population of soldiers. The protagonist here, Jen (Jenjira Pongpas), is a middle-aged housewife who shows up to volunteer at the hospital, falling in with a medium investigating the patient's dreams and a young soldier who becomes the son she never had.

As he did with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Weerasethakul resists traditional narrative structure, lulling us into a rhythmic state of slumber much like his characters. Unlike that film, however, Cemetery's weirdness comes from the way Jen accepts the metaphysical happenings around her rather than through any overt visual flourishes. Still, there are memorable images here-- a colostomy bag slowly filling up with urine, the neon glow of radiating "dream liquid tubes" above the soldier's beds, a random scene of someone defecating in the forest, and a late moment involving Jen's deformed leg remains one of the year's strangest moments--simultaneously pathetic, funny, and deeply moving.

Cemetery of Splendour is a little like life itself; odd, comic, banal, moving at it's own pace while leaving us behind with a flood of wakeful memories and amorphous dreams. It's an utterly singular cinematic experience; caught somewhere between an existential reverie and blackly comic vision of the absurdity of our existence.