Sound Obsession: Sharing Breath with Apichatpong

Image for this story

As his Tilda Swinton-starring film Memoria begins its infinite, one-cinema-at-a-time U.S. tour,  Apichatpong Weerasethakul wants us to stop obsessing about ourselves.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul doesn’t mind if you fall asleep during his films, but you’d certainly be missing an indescribably unique experience if you did. The Palme d’Or-winning director of films including Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Tropical Malady and Cemetery of Splendor creates cinematic symphonies, utilizing image and sound to lull his audience into a place between dream and reality, invading the subconscious and nesting inside that space. 

This ability is used to typically serene and untypically disturbing effect in his latest, Memoria, which follows a Scottish woman named Jessica (Tilda Swinton) living in Colombia, who suddenly begins to suffer from a pervasive syndrome in which she at random will hear a loud banging sound. The origin of the sound is unknown, the source of it nowhere to be found, and no one else can hear it but Jessica and the audience. It’s the first step that Weerasethakul takes to enveloping us within his main character’s headspace.

The unusual experience of witnessing Memoria—as impossible to describe as it is to forget—is one that the filmmaker hopes people will seek in cinemas. To that end, distributor NEON announced in October that the film will never be available to watch on physical media or any streaming service. Instead, it will only ever play in one theater at a time, a release that will see Memoria “moving from city to city, theater to theater, week by week, playing in front of only one solitary audience at any given time”.

This never-ending moving-image event began on Boxing Day with a one-week run at IFC Center in New York ahead of which, Weerasethakul sat down with Letterboxd’s senior editor Mitchell Beaupre for a chat about this one-of-a-kind project.

Read the full interview.