I really wanted to like the top award winner at 2010 Cannes and I did. But as usually happens when you have big expectations (due to winning the award) they are not fulfilled as much as you thought it should. Film is visually excellent plus you can tell how much care was given to details; story is magical, yet very realistic, as seamlessly blends interaction between the living and the dead, plus there are other fantasy related and created moments. But I missed emotions as film while being truly mesmerizing to watch didn’t make me feel many emotions.
Maybe was due to the six reels movie has according to what Apichatpong Weerasethakul tells in an interview, where each reel has a different acting style, lighting and reference in cinema, and you can tell that there are different styles while watching film. Which is not bad, it’s just that you get distracted and pay less attention to the magical narrative. Maybe the real reason I had no time to feel emotions is that film has too many levels and watching it once is not enough to grab everything. Honestly is not until now that I’m writing about film that I think I should watch it again and surely will discover more levels which will allow me to enjoy more this masterpiece.
Film tells about a dying uncle that’s setting his affairs before departing to the other life. But also is about transformation, profound life circumstances and paths (like marvelous first story with lost buffalo), recollection of memories (and past lives), love, dreams about the future (that’s also the past), Thai politics and immigration, and ghosts/magical creatures that visit the living when they need them most. One thing this story (and film) is not, simple; yet is also not complex.
Yes this is a film where you have to forget expectations, forget that won the Palm D’Or, and forget everything I’m telling you. Watch it with your brain empty (as much as possible), your brain open (as much as you can) and suggest you to learn a little bit about Thai history, to not miss many crucial moments (mainly at the end).
Before I forget, movie is part of a larger multi-platform project called Primitive, which includes installation, video, short films and now a full-length feature. The conceptual essence is to record Apichatpong’s memory of the Northeast, the region where he grew up. The two short films are A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (available in MUBI) and Phamtom. This film is a blend of the conceptual essence with the skeleton of a book published by a monk that has the film name.
A very unusual movie and a very unusual review from me. Know that HAVE to watch it again to uncover emotions, new layers and story details; but one thing I’m absolutely sure now, visually is truly fantastic. Won’t write again about film, so this is it about a movie that I wanted to give a BIG ENJOY!!! rating but will not get it, yet.
Watch trailer @MOC
Poster is the one I like the most but is not available in English.