Memoria (2021)

Sound as time, memory, life and death, the latest sensorial slow cinema entry from the Thai auteur starring a restrained Tilda Swinton is beautiful, hypnotic, and a much-needed sedative for our discomforting times.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,239

Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2021 | Colombia/Thailand | Drama | 136 mins | 1.85:1 | English & Spanish

Not rated – likely to be PG13

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Elkin Diaz, Jeanne Balibar, Juan Pablo Urrego
Plot: A woman from Scotland, while traveling in Colombia, begins to notice strange sounds. Soon she begins to think about their appearance.
Awards: Won Jury Prize (Cannes)
International Sales: The Match Factory

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Existence, Memory
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first feature film since 2015’s Cemetery of Splendor, Memoria comes with high expectations, not to mention landing a Cannes main competition spot, and eventually winning the Jury Prize. 

One of the most unique film projects in recent years, the Thai auteur travelled to Colombia to develop a story about a woman who is affected by strange sounds that no one else seems to be able to hear. 

Lest you think this is going to be the director’s first horror movie, Memoria is anything but.  Fully in his mode of cinematic address, this is a meditative journey into the unknown, with Sound acting as a medium in which existential and philosophical ideas of time, memory, life and death are expressed in highly-sensorial and abstract ways. 

In that regard, Memoria is surely one of the most conceptually-fascinating films of the year. Some have attested that it is an impenetrable work—well, wait till they see Tropical Malady (2004) or Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010). 

“It’s like a rumble… from the core of the Earth.”

I would argue instead that with Tilda Swinton headlining it (and with an indelibly restrained performance to boot), plus its exceptionally beautiful cinematography capturing the natural, rural and urban landscapes of Colombia, this is one of Weerasethakul’s ‘easiest’ films to get drawn into. 

I wouldn’t want to paint all slow cinema with the same brushstroke as some films really feel unnecessarily long, but when they work like hypnosis, time either doesn’t exist or truly flies.  In other words, the longer the takes, the slower the pacing, the more immersed and attentive we become. 

But more accurately, it is a kind of sedated attention, and in Memoria, we get a fine example of this kind of dreamy, hyperaware cinema.  And in our discomforting times, this is very much needed for any arthouse cinephile.

Grade: A-



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