The D-Caf Festival has been great to us! We’ve seen yet another great film at Zawya Cinema, Cemetery of Splendour. We walked into this film not knowing exactly what to expect. The Thai film, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, was a spectacular two hour long dream. It’s difficult to categorize the film, but if one must do so, then magical realism would be the most suitable genre.
The film’s protagonist, Jenjira, is a middle aged housewife, who embarks on a journey of intrigue, nostalgia and love when she starts volunteering in a hospital where soldiers are being treated for a strange illness which has left them comatose. She cares for one soldier in particular, Itt, who has no family to ask for him.
The magical realism elements appear from the very beginning, when doctors seem to be as open to nontraditional forms of healing as they are confident of their scientific ways. As the story progresses, this becomes more apparent, with more obvious magical references to reincarnation and immortality.
“The more she cares for him, the more they connect, and her stories of her youth move him as much as his stories, of the other world he goes to when he is asleep, move her.”
Jenjira’s interest in Itt increases when she finds his journal, where he has scribbled cryptic messages and what seem to be maps of some sort. When Itt awakes, they become instant friends, and Jenjira is immediately invested in Itt’s well-being. She tries to find out why he continues to fall back into his coma. The more she cares for him, the more they connect, and her stories of her youth move him as much as his stories, of the other world he goes to when he is asleep, move her. Jenjira’s grip on reality increasingly becomes just as fragile as Itt’s, while Itt’s condition is physical for the most part, her connection to him puts her in a similar place mentally.
“A calm, serene film, with minimal, natural dialogue and many beautiful, extremely clever shots that will have anyone who’s paying attention thing “I see what you did there”.”
One of the most notable things about the film is that as the characters are hallucinating, so is the audience. It is not forced in the slightest. On the contrary, it is fluid and effortless, like a dream in which you aren’t sure you are dreaming. A calm, serene film, with minimal, natural dialogue and many beautiful, extremely clever shots that will have anyone who’s paying attention thing “I see what you did there”. It comes as no surprise that so far it has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.
To learn more about the D-Caf Festival, visit their website http://d-caf.org/