Cemetery of Splendour

(Rak ti Khon Kaen)

By the director of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Soldiers in a remote, bucolic setting are struck by an odd form of sleeping sickness that finds them semipermanent guests at a quiet country hospital. Even the people still walking around seem to be under some kind of spell in this latest, whimsically dreamy venture from Thai writer-director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. He has a weakness for folktales, animistic curses, and reincarnation, as seen in similarly themed films like Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Poster image for Cemetery Of SplendourThings centre on Jen (Jenjira Pongpas), a middle-aged woman with legs of uneven length who volunteers at the hospital. She’s befriended by Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), a medium and possible government spy who can communicate with the snoozing soldiers, although that’s not necessarily connected with their morning erections.

The women bond with one young man (Banlop Lomnoi) in particular, and he becomes a kind of son to Jen. No one is perturbed by the loose, unexpected connections between people and places, or by increasingly bizarre explanations of odd behaviour, as with the travelling saleswomen who claim to be ghosts of long-gone Laotian goddesses. Turns out the soldiers are simply reliving past battles in their sleep, while that earth-digger outside disturbs the bones of ancient armies.

Cleverly made, Cemetery Of Splendour is packed with so much wry humour, gentle mystery, and strange beauty – the soldiers have ‘anti-snoring machines’ that change colour like mood rings – almost anyone would enjoy spending some time there.

– Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight

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