Spiritualists may find Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film speaking directly to them. At the very least, they’ll feel enticed by some of the pulsating ideas in Cemetery of Splendour.
The film primarily takes place in a rural hospital in Isan, Thailand where housewife Jen (played by Jenjira Pongpas Widner) volunteers her time to look after recovering soldiers. The soldiers are being treated for an illness that causes them to snap in and out of deep sleeps, and the doctors hope that a new method of light therapy will provide some answers. Jen soon forms a relationship with fallen soldier Itt (played by Banlop Lomnoi). Their conversations are friendly and mysterious, and viewers are overcome with a feeling that more is being hidden than what is revealed through Itt’s confessionary chats.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (who also wrote the meditative, baggy screenplay) applies coexisting realities, past lives, and bodies being used as vessels to characters who are willing to travel down the rabbit hole of life. The dialogue is stilted as are some of the performances, but as the film’s mysticism becomes increasingly tangible, we’re just as bewildered and interested as some of the actors starring in Cemetery of Splendour. We occasionally find ourselves mimicking the same emotions Jen expresses.
Cemetery of Splendour is far from exciting and some of Weerasethakul’s cutaways range from reflective slices of Thai culture to useless filler, but the cautiously placed epiphanies are persuasive enough to reel audiences back in.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie