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Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Next Film Seems Like Subtler, Stranger, Artier Cousin To 'Inception'

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by Charlie Schmidlin
August 13, 2012 12:22 PM
4 Comments
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Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Many filmmakers strive for their work to tap into a certain dream-like narrative, unbound by traditional logic and driven by subconscious desire, but while David Lynch and Christopher Nolan dazzle equally with their unique approaches, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”) may best them both by adhering most to that elusive goal. His films are known for their tranquil, seemingly dissociative threads of imagery, which sometimes even threaten to isolate the viewer in the process, but recently the director has expressed other wishes for his particular brand of storytelling.

Speaking at the Locarno Film Festival, where he is heading up the international competition jury, Weerasethakul told IndieWire his latest project will delve into the minds of those afflicted with sleeping sickness, and will explore “how their minds work during that specific time, how light can influence their dreams and memory." With the film, he's interested in how people experience the present, re-experience the past, and what lies in the middle, but for Weerasethakul, that occurrence is closely tied to the act of filmmaking itself. "There isn't really any present. Everything you're doing right now is gone the second after,” he said, “I want to capture that process when I'm thinking, and also when I'm shooting a film. I write less in order for things to evolve organically when we shoot. The script is there to be torn apart."

With mention of dreamscapes and possible filmmaking parallels, one can't help but turn immediately to “Inception” and its portrayal of such to this newest project. However, it's more likely the similarities will end with the subject matter, since Weerasethakul mentioned Nolan's film in an interview with us last year, and found himself dismayed by its literal-mindedness throughout. “I like it, it made me feel that I was watching a movie, and at one point it was very magical, but somehow it is too logical.” Not an unpopular opinion from that film's critics, but at least one that holds ground next to the challenging fragments of 'Uncle Boonmee' and “Syndromes and a Century” (which both deal with the elusiveness of memory).

That's not to say Weerasethakul is absolutely opposed to blockbusters -- he credits “E.T.” as one of the films that inspired him to begin filmmaking -- but if anything's clear by now, it's that the director has fashioned a specific, compelling style that he will continue to explore in future endeavors, no matter the genre. His latest is still in the writing stages, but considering the man's insanely prolific output, we expect to hear rumblings about this one sooner rather than later.

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4 Comments

  • Maria | August 17, 2012 4:58 AMReply

    Oh you are one of those people who believe that blockbusters or any films with action cannot be challenging or thought-provoking,typical film snob. I actually think Nolan is quite adept at wrapping challenging ideas and philosophical concepts into mainstream movies that is why he is so popular and loved. Any film that creates debate and countless theories related to religion, Jungian philosophy or a metaphor for film itself is not simple just simply presented which creates broad appeal. Also I found The Dark Knight to be emotionally intense and morally complex which reminded me of Bergman in many ways, again just combined with typical action tropes which you apparently cannot get past. Anyway Weerasethakuls critique of Inception as being too logical is meaningless as that was integral to the plot.

  • Brian | August 14, 2012 8:28 AMReply

    "David Lynch and Christopher Nolan dazzle equally with their unique approaches" - a most ridiculous statement! Nolan, as Weerasethakul seems to believe (perhaps over-graciously in his critique), is a slick and mainstream commercial director with rather simple ideas which he crams into complex-looking narrative structures. That's why Batman is a good project for him - no need for any emotional or conceptual depth. Lynch, like Weerasethakul, is a thoughtful and utterly unique filmmaker whose vision and approach is unmatched.
    Regardless, I expect this film to be incredible. I just had to comment on this thoughtless, silly comparison... This writer, when told that something is about dreams, thinks immediately of Inception. Perhaps he has never seen films by Bunuel, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Tarr, etc etc.
    It is quite reductive to compare these directors.

  • bohmer | August 13, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    Very exciting news considering the absence of the likes of Lynch...The second part of Tropical Malady blew me away!

  • yer | August 13, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    This man is one of the best directors alive and so young (for an established director). Can't wait to see how the rest of his career pans out.

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