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Memoria

Critic:

Amber Jackson

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Posted on:

16 Nov 2021

Film Reviews
Memoria
Directed by:
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Written by:
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Starring:
Tilda Swinton, Juan Pablo Urrego, Elkin Diaz

Slow and unnerving, yet deeply and mysteriously beautiful seems to be the general perception of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film, Memoria. Jessica (Tilda Swinton), an English woman residing in Colombia, is awoken by a loud bang one morning and continues to be tormented by the overwhelming sound that only she can hear. Hoping to discover its source, she embarks upon a journey of discovery to locate answers. A two-hour event that refuses to feel monotonous for a second, this is cinema that makes time stand still and forces the spectator to view more than a typical camera shot would permit.

 

With its world premiere taking place at Cannes Film Festival in July 2021, Memoria has so far garnered positive critical reception. Infamous independent Thai film director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who also directed landmark films like Tropical Malady (2004) and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), proves yet again that he is one of the great auteurs of slow cinema. Being his first film filmed and set outside of Thailand, with a non-Thai cast, Weerasethakul’s new approach and stylistic risk pays off.

 

The use of one-shot-takes by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom were thoughtful and unnerving in equal measure, whilst both Jessica and the viewer are attempting to make sense of the situation. Scenes take place in the hustle and bustle of public Colombian life with the copious background noise of life that provides a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ effect. Characteristically attune to slow cinema as a genre, Memoria’s long scenes allow for the viewer to be constantly anticipating the next moment, as if we are waiting for something that never arrives. To beautifully contrast these urban moments, the Colombian landscape emphasises natural beauty that is atmospheric and all-consuming with its endless noise. Yet, amongst all of this, Weerasethakul is able to create a picture in which Jessica as a character feels completely isolated. Particularly because she is experiencing something that no one else can hear, she does not fit into place in any location.

 

True to her talents, Swinton’s acting was calculated and deliberate and provides a clear external sense of Jessica’s inner turmoil as she struggles for answers as to where this noise may be coming from. Jessica embodies the role of both the observer and the observed, which is shown through tracking shots. There is something voyeuristic and aesthetically pleasing about watching her watch her surroundings. As Jessica falls deeper into her search, she encounters Hernan (Elkin Diaz) on her travels – a man of the land who assists in the exploration of her surroundings, as well as her inner self. As they share memories and experiences, Jessica comes to certain realisations that end up defining her solo journey. Memoria questions reality and the unique concept of reality to the individual. Although not much is given away throughout, character experience and reaction are consistently prevalent.

 

Director of infamous film Platform (2000), Jia Zhangke, co-produced this film, and consequently emulates his archetypal style that is in-keeping with the genre of slow cinema. The creative minds that came together to make Memoria allow for watching on the big screen to be a whole new kind of immersive experience that is very sensory. This slow burn is like time halts for both Jessica and the viewer which, combined with the continuous noises throughout each scene, make the process overwhelmingly beautiful.

 

Sound itself is an integral part of Memoria, as the soundscape is almost its own character. It is the main focus of the film, as engineered by sound designer Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr and sound editor Sebastian Perez Aguayo. The soundscape should not be undersold in any way, particularly because the contrast between silent and loud moments was very artistically done. Its sensational sound design is not only inventive, but contributes to a consistent on-edge feel. Slow cinema can be an acquired taste, but Memoria’s sound makes it near-impossible to deny the beauty and absolute artistic talent that oozes from this film.

 

Apichatpong Weerasethakul reminds us that it is okay not to have all of the facts and plot knowledge when watching as film structure itself, combined with artistic talent, can be appreciated on its own. Memoria is a beautiful and thought-provoking watch and not one to miss.

 

 

Memoria will be released in UK cinemas in January 2022 and has been selected as the Colombian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.

Indie Feature Film, Theatrical Release