A visually haunting meeting of souls in a country hospital, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery Of Splendour puts spectacle over story.
Blithe Spiritby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
From Blissfully Yours to Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives to Cemetery Of Splendour, there’s an inimitable, recurring style to Weerasathkul Apichatpong’s films. Perhaps it’s “Joe”‘s themes of patriotism and spirits, or maybe his delicate conversations and haunting imagery. Or maybe it’s just Diego García’s camerawork that slowly draws in the viewer like a fly caught in a spider’s web. And there’s no doubt as we watch the changing colours in the hospital ward and at the cinema escalators, that Cemetery Of Splendour is a visual pleasure, hypnotic in its gentle slide between hues. Like most other Weerasethakul films, Cemetery Of Splendour is simultaneously simple and complex with its story of a woman who ends up nursing sleeping soldier Itt at a country hospital, who dreams of the spirit world beneath their feet. It’s lyrical but also absurd, as we see Itt (Banlop Lomnoi) lead Jen (Jenjira Pongpas) through the forest, over invisible doorways and into imaginary bathrooms – all too reminiscent of the Emperor’s new clothes. Through an otherwise underused character of a spiritual medium, Weerasethakul expounds his arguments about staying in Thailand to serve his country, and Cemetery Of Splendour is a curiously Thai mix of modernity, spirituality and tradition as Jen comes face to face with the princesses of the grotto come to life in a dinosaur play park. It’s poetic, haunting and visually arresting, but ultimately too thin to bring its disparate ideas into an engaging narrative, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery Of Splendour ultimately just too ghostly to take shape.
Cemetery Of Splendour is now showing at the London Film Festival