Cemetery of Splendour (2015)
Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Starring: Jenjira Pongpas Widner, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram,
Sujittraporn Wongsrikeaw, Bhattaratorn Senkgraigul, Richard Abramson
Review By Greg Klymkiw
A seemingly incurable sleeping sickness overtakes several Thai soldiers. Unresponsive to the usual treatments, they're dumped in a makeshift hospital in the northeastern provinces to receive what care can be dispensed. Jenjira (Jenjira Pongpas Widner), a crippled volunteer nursing assistant, spends endless hours and days tending to the needs of Itt (Banlop Lomnoi); giving massages, repositioning his body, applying wet cloths and even talking to him as if he was completely alert.
And then, he wakes up.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour is compulsively fascinating, dazzlingly beautiful and deeply moving. Much of the film pulsates in a neo-realist tradition; the cast and locations always feel like the real thing. Equally astonishing are the spiritual moments, rooted in a reality that's never beyond the natural order of the film's mise-en-scene, and the natural order of the world as it should be. Weerasethakul's film is an ode to life, love, death and understanding in a world where change, more often than not, has a devastating impact upon the inner peace, spirituality and environment of a place, people and ghosts. Yes, ghosts!
Writer-director Weerasethakul dapples the film with odd bits of his trademark humour and delightful perversities (a la previous works like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) which meld with the film's more cerebral and elegiac qualities. At times, it's a visual feast (especially the haunting coloured light treatments used upon the sleeping soldiers at night).
Most notable is the character of Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), a psychic who can read the thoughts and dreams of the men. She's the lynch-pin of the film's formal trinity of central characters and is indeed responsible for taking us into the deep, often impenetrable places of the heart, making them literal and as such, all the more real. It's a magic we believe in wholeheartedly.
Cemetery of Splendour resonates the way great art should. It is an exquisitely wrought tapestry that allows us to step inside it and then, soar. This, of course, is what also makes for great cinema!
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
Cemetery of Splendour is in the TIFF Masters program at TIFF 2015. For dates, times and tix, visit the TIFF website HERE.