Cemetery of Splendor (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015), a meditation in bliss


If you have a Netflix streaming account you might find hiding in its’ library is this master piece from director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, out of Thailand, who is slowly rising into becoming one of the premiere directors on a global level (considering an auteur at this juncture would be a little to pre-mature). If you would like to do extra research on this film you might find Cemetery of Splendor popping on many critics list (meta critic gives it on 87 percent rating while rotten tomatoes gives it a high 90s rating). There is reason for this as this film goes against the grain of standard convention of pacing, mise-en-scene, and character development. At the same time it still follows a straight forward structure in storytelling, and uses a high complex use of color pelleting in the film. If you are okay with the early parts listed being different this truel is a masterpiece.

From the opening scene, this film is slow to begin with its’ main character reason for existing to being incidentally and the story appearing to not be eventful. The premise being a senior ( former nurse?) volunteers at a make shift hospital that’s primary purpose is to take care of soldiers in deep sleeps, possibly comas, though it is never stated that they are.

After this premise is establish, we are give a view into the main character’s day to day life, which leads to the waking of solider, who befriends her and allows her to open up about her personal life. This eventually carries the story to the climax being a weird cleansing and forgiving act achieved through a psychic and a leg wash. The film’s comedown from the climax is a settle beauty of revealing that will only make sense to the viewer if the have been paying 100% attention to the film.

And this is where the beauty of the film really hides within this piece. In general, Hollywood, and its’ “indie” counterparts are becoming more accepting of a culture that does not want to turn itself off. This goes beyond the concept of checking your phone every twenty minutes and more into a state of mind that for, lack of a better term, blank. Cemetery of Splendor requires before the film even begins to be able to move back into the mind, clear and focus only on the movement of the fan, the spacing between dialogue, the kicking of leaves to find an old quote that would’ve been on the wall of a classroom. This state of clearing the mind is important to the film as it slowly rolls through a color sequence, much in the same vein as P.T. Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love creates overtures of light between sections of the film, or Herman Melville’s Le Cercle Rogue scene where the heist man is held up in a single room doing nothing for a good ten minutes of the film. It is a pace of boredom that we tend to forget to be in.

For the film critic this might be joy as there run of the mill week might consist of a dozen films driven by what’s at stake and the beats the drive the ante until the very end (and in some cases, miss them entirely), so being able to have film where nothing is at stake, little is learned, but more is pondered, or presented as is, Cemetery of Splendor, acts more like an act of meditation then an act of movie watching. For the everyday viewer, in the midst of the final sprint of events driving us into the new year, I highly recommended you use this film to give you a chance to quite the mind and reel yourself back into reality, if only for 2 hours.

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