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  Memoria Stop, Hey, What's That Sound?
Year: 2021
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Elkin Diaz, Jeanne Balibar, Juan Pablo Urrego, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Agnes Brekke, Jeronimo Baron, Constanza Guttierez, Daniel Toro
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jessica Holland (Tilda Swinton) owns a florist supplier's business in Colombia, and has been quite comfortable so far, but now two things have happened to disturb her greatly: first, her sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) is admitted to hospital, and second, she has started to hear odd noises. Take last night, when her troubled sleep was interrupted by a loud bang, yet when she ventured out from under the covers she could not find any evidence of what had caused it. And even more bizarre, she keeps hearing it at random times, and is not sure anyone else can, or if they do, why they are not paying attention to it like she does...

It may seem inevitable in retrospect that Tilda Swinton would show up in a film directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and lo and behold, here was Memoria, which she also had a hand in producing, to prove that while some aspects of this world regularly went awry, other elements fell into place with a pleasing aptness. Of course, for some audiences their team up may have set alarm bells ringing, oh dear, Tilda's gone ultra-arty again! But if you had seen previous efforts by this filmmaker, you would be well prepared to be agreeably baffled by what played out in the most gentle pacing imaginable, offering ample time to contemplate.

If the idea of navel-gazing, even if it was someone else's navel you were gazing into, did not appeal, then you would be well advised to stay away from Memoria, as it made no concessions to the uninitiated, despite being curiously one of Weerasethakul's accessible works. It was, after all, at heart a science fiction tale not unlike Steven Spielberg's very accessible indeed Close Encounters of the Third Kind, though to explain away what Jessica experiences as some kind of contactee enigma as if she were a female, twenty-first century George Adamski was a reductive way to go about approaching the mysteries it staged with a slight mischief.

The film did not exactly wink at the viewer, but it did exhibit a playfulness that danced around the sinister leanings Jessica is growing aware of. She appears to be a sufferer of so-called Exploding Head Syndrome, and this actually may have been the first time that had been depicted in a movie, where the afflicted will be startled awake by a loud crash or bang that turns out to have been emanating from inside their own minds, like an auditory hallucination. It may not be something everyone goes through, but it's not uncommon, though Jessica refuses to shrug it off and believes it must be significant in some manner, hence her visit to a personable young sound engineer called Hernan (Juan Pablo Urrego) who recreates what she has been hearing.

That scene alone is like hardly anything any other director would have included in their film, not simply because it's a strange situation nobody else would have considered, but because its sheer stillness and quietness is made all the more unsettling by its interruption by the manufactured booms on the mixing desk. But there is more to come as Hernan makes a retreat from Jessica's world, as if he had been the victim of gangsters or a dictatorship, only to have us presumably be reassured that he is still around and now in the body of an older man who is a lot more mysterious. He lives in a quiet village in the country, and claims to have such vivid memories, apparently of events that didn't happen to him (or did they?) that he has opted for the quiet life. He is representative of a method of philosophy that is almost beyond our ken, and he has a habit of pulling stunts like dying for ten minutes while Jessica looks on in awe. What does it all mean? That would be a matter for Weerasethakul, but if you want to join his contemplation of the infinite, this was a film like nothing else. Apart from his other work, that is.

[MEMORIA IS RELEASED IN UK CINEMAS 14th JANUARY 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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