Cemetery of Splendour, film review: ‘Thai language film is ordinary and magical’

A scene from Cemetery of Splendour

A scene from Cemetery of Splendour - Credit: Archant

Thai director Weerasethakul is of the paint drying school of art house cinema.

For him to make a film about an unexplained sleeping disease is really tempting fate.

Watching it on a hot, close Friday afternoon, I have to say the condition was dangerously infectious, but if you can keep your eyes and mind open, you may come to embrace the mysteries of this serene and soothing film.

Weerasethakul’s USP is a mundane, casual presentation of the supernatural – the film drifts between dreams and wakefulness, life and death, this world and the next.

No distinction is made between them.

The style is slow and simple; mostly longish static shots of unremarkable locations.

A group of soldiers slumber in an old school room that has been converted into a hospital. Relatives come and visit them.

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A medium Keng (Rueangram) is employed to communicate their dreams and past life recollections.

A volunteer Jenjira (Pongpas Widner) is drawn towards Itt (Lomnoi) who never has any visitors.

Life goes on around them.

Usually, this kind of inscrutable foreign language film comes over as aloof and smug.

Their impenetrability is like reams of red-tape that a jobsworth bureaucrat has thrown at you to make your life unnecessarily difficult.

You will have trouble making head or tail out of this splendid cemetery, but at least its style is open and welcoming.

It doesn’t seem to be going out of its way to give you a hard time, it’s just made that way.

It is ordinary and magical; otherworldly, but in a down to earth kind of way.

Rating: 4/5 stars