Tilda Swinton in “Memoria”: On the Trail of the Big Bang

Do people dream of sleeping? Or is sleep in the dream reality an unattainable level of consciousness because the dreaming would realize their state at that very moment? Cinema has always maintained a symbiotic relationship with dream-consciousness, also because it is so close to the cinematic experience (it is no coincidence that psychoanalysis arose around the same time). In Christopher Nolan’s Escheresque “Inception”, the sleeping person moves through dreams like in an architecture that leads deeper and deeper into the subconscious. And the Marvel film “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” just declared dreams to be the gateway to an infinite number of parallel universes.

Apart from such blockbuster scenarios, the films of the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul are also often described as dream cinema. They follow their own logic, in which states of consciousness and the course of time are permeable: souls wander, the deceased come into contact with the living. Everyday miracles that are not intended to arouse amazement, but to train our receptivity to the subtle world. In the dream cinema, people even watch other people sleep.

“I never dream,” says a man in “Memoria” whom botanist Jessica (Tilda Swinton) meets on the banks of a river, where he is scaling fish in front of his little shack. Dreamless people should basically feel excluded from Weerasethakul’s cinema, but Hernán, as the hermit is called, has already reached a higher level of consciousness; here dreams only distract from the essential information. (He doesn’t watch movies, either.)

And then “Memoria” goes to a place where the laws of cinema and the logic of dreams merge: Hernán lies down on the grass on the bank to sleep. Jessica sits down next to him and watches the peaceful sleeper for almost seven minutes. Insects chirp, the river ripples, time passes and yet seems to stand still. Cinematic reality, expansive and at the same time highly condensed.

Limits of our externally experienceable world

This mind-expanding sequence captures the essence of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cinema, pushing the boundaries of our external world with each film. “I’m like a hard drive,” Hernán later explains to Jessica. He saves all of human history’s experiences, both good and traumatic. “And you’re my antenna.” There they sit together at the table in his hut, while the audio track plays a long past memory is heard; an escape, an act of violence. Like all of Weerasethakul’s films, “Memoria” tells it from a subjective point of view, but its perspective is universal, almost – the very last punch line – cosmic.


In “Memoria”, which received the Jury Prize in Cannes last year, Weerasethakul (he won the Palme d’Or in 2010 with “Uncle Boonmee Remembers His Past Lives”) works for the first time with a big name in world cinema. However, Tilda Swinton’s introspective play does not make his film a star vehicle. Swinton acts more like a membrane, or, in Hernán’s words, an “antenna” into another consciousness, another idea of ​​cinema.

Jessica has traveled to Bogotá, Colombia to visit her ailing sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) and to research local orchid species. She may have recently lost her husband (the film only hints), but her disorientation is evident in her hesitant stride through town and nature – where Weerasethakul’s longtime cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (“Call Me By Your Name”) takes her in somnambulistic attitudes follows.

And then there’s this sound: a pop — “like a rumble from the core of the earth” — that only Jessica can hear. In order to track down its cause, she seeks out a music producer whose name is also Hernán; an earlier incarnation of the hermit of the same name, this time played by Juan Pablo Urrego.

City, nature: “Memoria” unfold a trance-like flow.Foto: Kick the Machine

He tries to reconstruct the noise in the recording studio, but the sound may not be of terrestrial origin. The bang follows Jessica on the street, in nature, at the university hospital, where she befriends the anthropologist Agnes (Jeanne Balibar), who exhumes human remains thousands of years old in Colombia. “I think I’m going crazy,” Jessica once told her. “There are worse things,” Agnes replies.

(In cinemas since Thursday, on Mubi from August 5)

One would prefer not to wake up from the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. However, they only unfold their trance-like flow if one allows oneself to openly perceive this cinema, in which noises from violent epochs of (colonial) history and the sound of nature create an equally concrete reality.

In this reality, it doesn’t matter whether the films are set in Thailand or Colombia, quite the opposite: Her broken Spanish, says Karen’s husband Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho) to Jessica, is perfect for poetry. Despite – or rather because of – its beauty, Weerasethakul’s cinema is receptive to everything ephemeral that is revived in a new form. Juan wants to write a poem about mushrooms: “The smell of a virus. The perfume of decay.” It’s an ideal that “Memoria” comes close to approaching in its most lucid moments. synesthetic experiences.

By Editor

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