“You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.” – Rod Serling
Fitting words to describe Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film. Memoria is less of a film and more of an experience, one that will leave many baffled if they try to sit and watch it at home with a myriad of distractions (phone, kids, dishes, laundry, etc). Neon has made a rather baffling choice in rolling out this film, one that has kept me intrigued for over a year now as I patiently waited for my turn. It’s a roadshow, one that travels city to city and allows for one-week-only viewings. It’s an experience unlike any other, one that guarantees everyone a chance to see this theatrically and not just in New York and L.A. like many other smaller films.
And how to describe this thing? The film opens with a woman, Jessica (Tilda Swinton), being frightened out of slumber by a loud banging noise. Sure, the noise will follow her through the film, gradually growing more comforting than frightening, but it serves as an effective jumpscare that draws us into a world of sonic understanding in a film built entirely on diegetic sound. Weerasethakul has always been a filmmaker built more on vibes and design than on plot, but with Memoria he’s apexed into something beautiful. Jessica is a Scottish ex-pat living in Columbia, working at her flower show and following this sound down the rabbit hole that will take her from Bogotá to Medellín. It’s not a thriller, but all of the pieces to make it one are there. It’s not a science fiction film, though its contemplation on audio technology and the exciting reveal of its final twenty minutes brush against it. It isn’t even a horror flick, at least not in the conventional sense, but one long and quietly unsettling scene involving car alarms will make you feel afraid deep in your bones.
Sometimes it takes a complete and totally immersive experience to appreciate a film and that’s why I’m finally onboard with Memoria‘s release strategy. I spent months bitching because I couldn’t get to a screening (shoutout to the Tallgrass Film Association for bringing it to my city) and now I couldn’t fathom seeing it any other way. While Weerasethakul has crafted contemplative films before he’s never gone this meditative, at once creating a film that is peaceful and gripping at the same moment. Two particularly dreamlike sequences, one in which Jessica is assisted by a sound tech named Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego) in recreating the noise that’s been stalking her and one in which a nice man named Hernán (Elkin Díaz) has a conversation indicating that their dreamless sleep cycles are akin to death, absolutely took my breath away and left me on the edge of my seat. These are long, disturbing, off-kilter scenes that are also just two people having quiet, respectful conversations.
There are no easy answers in Memoria and what is offered might be more confounding than it is revelatory. Still, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film is a must-see that I highly recommend. See it in the biggest, darkest, loudest, most immersive theater you can (if you can score a screening at a Dolby somewhere I highly recommend it). It’s a film where silence is deafening, the rustling of trees is intense, and the occasional loud clanging can change the wavelength of your soul.
Memoria is still touring America, never to be on streaming or home video. When it comes to your area drop everything and get there.