Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Apichatchong Weerasethakul, 2010, 114m, Thailand, Palme d'Or
Boonmee is a prosperous land-owner facing death. He lives with his wife and grown up son. As the end approaches, he is visited by his first wife who died nineteen years ago and a deceased son who has turned into a monkey like creature. In the netherworld of incipient death, he is able to recall his past lives, or imagines he can. The film alternates between two realities. One is the reality of Boonmee's house or farm or his car moving through the lush greenery. On the other side we find him moving through dark, damp forests with other-worldly rivers and grottoes, with brilliant psychedelic colors and lights. Indeed, it may well be a drug induced hallucination. There is a particularly haunting sequence where a palanquin born aging princess consigns herself to a pool at the foot of a dream like waterfall. Such is the general trend of the film. At best it may be regarded as presenting near death states or out of the body experiences.
Belief in life after death and the possibility of reincarnation are the underlying assumptions, as the title suggests. This is the lore of the East. The film ends up as a piece of pretty if exhausting gimmickry. It showcases the young director's cinematic talents but sentimentalizes death. It lacks the philosophical depth of films like Wit, A Taste of Cherry, or Goodbye Solo. Perhaps it can be commended for it's unusual, ever-pertinent if unanswerable theme of what happens to us after we die.