A master of slow cinema, Weerasethakul takes his time with every shot; long stretches of time pass without any dialogue or movement. In so doing, the film inculcates a kind of hypersensitivity in its viewers, who become suddenly attuned to each flitting blade of grass or buzzing fly that enters the shot—as well as to their own posture and breathing.
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To be as suggestive, yet covert as possible, the great innovation of this film is the notion of how sounds can be memories—all too often in the popular imagination, we think of them as mini-movies of the mind, or visual spots of time as in The Tree of Life or the Romantic poet Wordsworth’s concept.
The beautiful closing landscape shots of the jungles and mountains suggest that memory extends even beyond the human dimension.
Memoria is more meditation than movie, a transfixing deep-dive into the profound challenges of relating to people and places from the outside in.
It is cinema that, if you let it, can check our heartbeats, frustrate our minds and connect with our very souls.
Again in a Apichatpong Weerasethakul film, we find spirits lurking behind the everyday world, but in Memoria, they might just be repressed memories emanating from a world that never actually forgets.
In a calmly realist, non-mystic movie language, this director really can convince you that the living and the dead, the past and the present, the terrestrial and the other, do exist side by side.
In Memoria, the disruptive sounds Jessica hears are a wake-up call of sorts, forcing her to engage with those dimensions of the world humans are ill-equipped to explain: what lives on when someone dies, and the way places serve as a kind of fossil imprint of everything they’ve witnessed.
It’s an exercise in mindfulness that asks you to give yourself over to it lock, stock and barrel. If you’re willing to do that, you can cancel that meditation course.
Graced by Tilda Swinton’s emptied-out performance as a woman haunted by a strange sound whose origins she is obsessed with uncovering, Memoria eludes easy categorisation while becoming a powerful meditation on connection, spiritual isolation and renewal.