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Thailand/United Kingdom/France/Germany 2015
Directed by
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
122 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Cemetery Of Splendour

What does one say about Cemetery of Splendour?  In one respect it is a realistic portrait of everyday life for ordinary people, not unlike The Ground We Won. But when the everyday is populated with ghosts and spirits, the outcome is far from reality as we know it. Then there is director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s unique approach to film-making (anyone who has seen  his 2010 Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives will know what to expect) - enigmatically poetic and detachedly meditative, with little in common with the narrative-driven, character-focussed cinema of the West.  Then there are the socio-political resonances which an audience unfamiliar with the film’s cultural context can at best only partially appreciate.

The story concerns a middle-aged woman, Jenjira (Jenjira Pongpas Widner), visiting a group of soldiers who have fallen ill with a mysterious sleeping sickness after digging up a building site for a government project.  There she meets Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), a young woman with psychic powers who tells her that  the soldiers have disturbed an ancient cemetery of kings and that the spirits of the dead are drawing on the soldiers’ energy for their own purposes. This much of the film is relatively conventional but once Jenjira is visited by the spirits of two princesses, the line between the material and the spirit world and imagination and reality dissolves with the two women moving freely between them.

Although as a Westerner one feels rather much an observer of things barely understood, a tourist in Weerasethakul’s world, the desire to know and understand more of it is strong and that in itself is an experience worth having. If you like the road less travelled Cemetery Of Splendour will be a film for you.




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