I had a bit of a hard time with this one because I have a deep and lifelong aversion to sudden, loud noises. That's not a knock on the movie, which is very good. This is more of a "me problem."

The noises are heavy thuds, like concrete against steel, and are heard by Tilda Swinton's character. She is an expat in Bogotá, Colombia, where ancient ruins coexist with ugly modern buildings. Nobody else hears these sounds, but the city has other loud, ominous noises that are more explicable - for example, a cacophony of car alarms, or a loud blast from a bus exhaust engine that causes one passerby to fall to the ground for cover. Swinton sees this latter incident while on her way to a recording studio, where she works with an audio engineer to try to recreate the mysterious sounds. Elsewhere, she visits her ailing sister in a hospital above an archaeological dig, and examines a 6,000-year-old skull that was found during a highway construction project. Past and present live together in Apichatpong's films.

The compositions and edits offer suggestive juxtapositions that Apichatpong trusts you to generate meaning from. As usual with Apichatpong, scenes unfold in long, static takes, and important information is revealed without fanfare in hushed conversations that you really need to pay attention to. The urban settings of the first half are grey and overcast, and the rural setting of the second half is sumptuous, but Apichatpong does little with his camera to underline the ugliness or sweeten the prettiness. All of his films have rich and dense soundscapes, and this is no exception; like John Cage, he wants you to hear a symphony in the room tones, traffic noise, and shuffling feet of a city. Every scene is hushed, but the film is never truly silent until the extraordinary climax.

This is Apichatpong's first feature made outside of Thailand, where he had felt increasingly unwelcome under military rule. Colombia has its own recent history of (paramilitary) violence, which I'm sure Apichatpong is aware of and which I'm sure informs this film. I'm also sure that some of these subtleties, as well as the nuances of Swinton's internalized performance, will keep revealing themselves in subsequent viewings, which this film (which on first viewing I found a little cooler to the touch than other Apichatpongs) definitely invites.

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Will liked this review