By Mary Brodbin
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Memoria—a dreamlike arthouse film with mystery and folklore

Memoria begins with a bang, but gives way to something much slower paced, writes Mary Brodbin
Issue 2787
A woman in a dark, cavernous room stand silhouetted in front of a wall to ceiling window encasing a patch of grass in sunlight

Jessica follows a dreamlike journey through Bogota

Memoria is the latest film by Thai film maker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose preference for unconventional storytelling has often relegated his work to the arthouse.

It opens with a bang. Jessica, a botanist from Britain visiting Colombia, is jolted awake by a massive boom. She is plagued by the sound that only she can hear.

Memoria spends its first half following Jessica through modern-day Bogota in a dreamlike sequence, interrupted by the metallic thud that echoes inside her skull.

There is a dramatic slowdown of pace when Jessica travels to the Amazon jungle and meets an elderly man living alone who remembers everything—even memories before he was born. They have long conversations and long silences. He tells Jessica that she is actually reading and relating his own memories.

The jungle feels cut off from civilisation, opening a place for folkloric magic with results so overblown they could well alienate all but Weerasethakul’s most passionate followers.

Don’t get too excited about the prospect of a mystery story here. This is a slow moving film of two and a quarter hours.

It’s filled with prolonged doses of waiting, listening, the rain falling, the leaves moving. It began with a bang and dare I say ends with a whimper.

Controversially, Weerasethakul has made his latest offering available to a fairly limited audience.

It will travel from one arthouse cinema to another, only screening on one screen at a single time and never being streamed or DVD released.

It’s interesting enough to feel I’d like to see it again and perhaps take more in. But that would break the viewing conditions rather high-handedly agreed by Weerasethakul.

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