Tracker Pixel for Entry

This Is the Sound: Apichatpong Weerasethakul Contemplates ‘Memoria’

Cinema | December 20th, 2021

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

In one of the best scenes of the year, Tilda Swinton’s Jessica Holland sits with audio engineer Hernan Bedoya (Juan Pablo Urrego) behind a massive mixing console in a recording studio in Colombia, working to recreate a mysterious sound that she has been hearing intermittently. Drawing initially from a collection of stock effects, Jessica and Hernan take their time as they methodically narrow down the possibilities, closing in on the particular qualities of the bang that has intruded in Jessica’s life. Shaping and bending the wave with his digital tools until Jessica is satisfied, Hernan is as unhurried as anyone in the cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a modern master of the slow and contemplative style of storytelling some would call transcendental.

This exchange in “Memoria” illustrates the filmmaker’s playful sense of humor regarding the artistic enterprise, a kind of winking, behind-the-curtain glimpse at the sausage-grinding process of making sure all the post-production details are just right. The sound Hernan ultimately conjures, for all intents and purposes, is indistinguishable from the one that has been following Jessica around, disrupting her sleep and messing with her head. But reading “Memoria” as metanarrative unlocks only one layer of joy – Weerasethakul treats Jessica’s quest with complete respect. The source of the sound is eventually revealed. And with that revelation, the filmmaker just GOES FOR IT.

Both Weerasethakul’s full-length collaboration with Tilda Swinton and the “Memoria” project have been a long time coming. Swinton was to have appeared in “Cemetery of Splendour” (she also contributed to the first English-language book on the filmmaker, published in 2009). Weerasethakul spent time in Colombia in 2017 to develop what would become his first feature shot outside Thailand. The global constitution of “Memoria” may also represent a bid for greater creative freedom; Weerasethakul has for years been frustrated by the censorship imposed in his home country.

“Memoria” entices with its aural preoccupations, but the film is rich with many other ideas and explorations. Admirers of Weerasethakul’s filmography, which includes the brilliant 2010 Palme d’Or winner “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” can bask in the sublimity of Jessica’s episodic encounters. The best of these may be the shift from the urban Bogota to the rural Amazon jungle: Jessica leaves the city only to meet another Hernan Bedoya (Elkin Diaz) whose total recall and superpowered sleeping abilities are as remarkable as his surprise connection to Jessica. Is this second Hernan, rhyming like David Lynch’s “two Chalfonts” or Fred Madison/Pete Dayton, a coincidence, a doppelganger, a mirror?

The film’s official website is as delightfully enigmatic as the experience of watching “Memoria.” It contains a section called “Bang Stories,” a quartet of firsthand accounts of alarming sounds ranging from the comic to the unnerving to the traumatizing. Superfans will also discover the opportunity to purchase a hardcover, companion art book containing “photographs, a personal diary and sketchbook, research notes, treatment excerpts, and email correspondence.” Scouring the website for clues and insights also turns up this absolute catnip: Weerasethakul writes, “I imagine a scenario in which Jessica Holland, a comatose character from Jacques Tourneur’s ‘I Walked with a Zombie,’ wakes up. She finds herself in Bogota, being drawn by a dream or a trauma that she doesn’t remember.” Count me in. 

Recently in:

By Bryce Haugenbrycevincenthaugen@gmail.comOn most Wednesdays, local resident Nick Barth can be found outside the Red River Women’s Clinic, standing on the sidewalk holding an anti-abortion sign and urging patients to reconsider…

By Michael M. Miller  michael.miller@ndsu.eduTheresa Meier Eissinger of Napoleon, N.D., writes, “Christmas Eve at the Meier farm (between Linton and…

Sons of Norway, Kringen Lodge #4-25, is a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Norwegian culture.Sentrum på 722 2nd Ave N, FargoKringen Kafe er åpen for Kaffe og Bakverk mandag-fredag 9.00 til…

By Sabrina Hornung  sabrina@hpr1.comOur opinion: Finding peace on Earth in the midst of the war on ChristmasAs the holiday season…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com Is It the Common Good for Billionaires to Sail $500 Million Superyachts?The new Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln set out 161 years ago to save the United States from break up. James Russell…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Sarah Wassberg Johnson  sarah@thefoodhistorian.comIt was 1998. I was in the basement of Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo, putting on a white robe and a…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comTrudy Wolf is a woman of many hats and has been making waves since she came to Zeeland Public schools in 1993. Zeeland, located in south central North Dakota, had 87 residents according to the 2019…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comThe final film in Joachim Trier’s Oslo Trilogy, “The Worst Person in the World” is one of the best films of 2021. Despite several erroneous descriptions from critics tagging the movie as a…

By Alicia Underlee Nelsonalicia@hpr1.comCreative Moorhead is injecting new life into Moorhead’s art scene and revitalizing its downtown spaces. Artistic or handy people with a connection to the city are encouraged to connect with…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…