Review | Memoria | 2021
"Film is like a drug. It is a shelter when you cannot deal with reality." - Apichatpong Weerasethakul
To watch a film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul is to enter a truly singular cinematic realm. If film is like a drug, as Weerasethakul once proclaimed, then his films are a strong and heady batch indeed, capable of penetrating realms of consciousness that seemingly exist both within and apart from our reality.
It is as if Swinton is wandering through a waking dream; so too is the audience, lost in a sonic landscape painted by a master filmmaker. Few other films this year (or in recent memory) has created such an indelible aural palate, at once peaceful, hushed, and on edge, trembling with electricity and the constant anticipation of yet another phantom bang from regions unknown. That unknown quality is, of course, central to Weerasethakul's vision, leaving the audience with many more questions than answers, but the nagging sense that something extraordinary has just unfolded before our eyes. It all has such a hypnotic effect - and Weerasethakul makes great use of the misty Colombian landscapes to evoke a sense of emotional disconnection that is ultimately assuaged by otherworldly sources.
It's a shame, then, that its distributor, Neon, has chosen a mind bogglingly elitist release strategy of only showing it in one theater at a time, a perpetual road show with now planned physical or streaming release. While there's something about this that seems to reinforce the film's hazy meditation on the ephemeral nature of memory, it all but ensures that the film will be wholly inaccessible to all but a select few. The film deserves so much more than this enforced scarcity, because it's truly cosmic masterwork from one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers. But by hiding the film in this way, Neon has seemingly perpetuated the myth of inaccessible art films only being beloved by "cultural elites," keeping one of the year's best films frustratingly out of reach.