Close Up

1 - 29 November 2011: Close-Up on Apichatpong Weerasethakul

We present five films by one of the most original contemporary filmmakers, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Unique in style, his films create a radically new cinematic language by magically entwining myth, dreams and the subconscious with everyday life.

Mysterious Object at Noon
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2000 | 85 min | B/W | Digital

The inspiration for Mysterious Object at Noon was the Surrealist storytelling technique known as Exquisite Corpse, wherein a variety of writers would contribute to a story one sentence at a time, without knowing much about what the previous sentences contained. Apichatpong Weerasethakul used the technique to interview people throughout Thailand, learning a little bit about their lives and then asking them to contribute to the film's evolving story. What emerges is at once a portrait of Thailand's disenfranchised lower classes – farmers, fruit vendors, village performers of "mor lam" (a song-and-storytelling hybrid extremely popular in the rural northeast) – and a fractured group-narration of a story about a handicapped boy and his tutor. The finished story was then shot in dramatic form, using nonprofessional actors, and intercut with the earlier footage.

Blissfully Yours
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2002 | 125 min | Colour | Digital

Innovative and enigmatic, Blissfully Yours is a languid celebration of the pleasures of the moment. In Apichatpong's heady, sensual and playful film, a leisurely road trip and a picnic in the jungle give way to uninhibited emotion and eroticism. A meditation on happiness, superstition, politics and sexuality, nothing really happens except that it happens with a purpose. Blissfully Yours confirms the reputation of one of the most distinctive new filmmakers in world cinema.

Tropical Malady
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2004 | 114 min | Colour | Digital

Apichatpong’s visionary film exists in dual realms, exploring connected themes of love and desire in a radically different way. A fractured love story is interrupted by a feverish night-time odyssey into the heart of the jungle where shape-shifting spirits and tigers abound. The conscious and the subconscious, the modern and the ancient, reality and myth; all become magically entwined in this hypnotic, mysterious drama.

Syndromes and a Century
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2006 | 105 min | Colour | Digital

Syndromes and a Century is a spellbinding Buddhist meditation on the mysteries of love and attraction, the workings of memory, and the ways in which happiness is triggered. Mesmerisingly beautiful to look at, it is also laced with wonderful absurd humour. Dubbed "a hospital comedy of a somewhat metaphysical bent", Syndromes and a Century is inspired by the Weerasethakul's memories of his parents, both doctors, and of growing up in a hospital environment. It is a film of two halves – the first set in a sunlit rural hospital amid lush, tropical vegetation, the second in a hi-tech urban clinic under fluorescent lighting. Certain scenes from the first half are replayed in the second – almost but not quite identically. Apichatpong describes the film as "random and mysterious", and, like the work of David Lynch, this film denies obvious interpretation.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2010 | 113 min | Colour | Digital

Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the remote forest, an important place from his childhood and, he believes, the possible location of his former existences. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and the spirit of his long lost son returns. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave – the birthplace of his first life... Eerie, poetic and masterful, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives creates an enchanted world where fauna and flora converge to convey a magical, sublime atmosphere.