Best of 2016: #6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

cemetery-of-splendor-006. Cemetery of Splendor. Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Thailand/UK/France/Germany/Malaysia/South Korea/Mexico/USA/Norway.

Putting into words my feelings and thoughts toward any of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films has always been difficult. In a sense, all of his films are chapters of the same story, and some resonate more than others. As his first feature after winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (a film I actually prefer less than his other works), Cemetery of Splendor addresses a lot of Weerasethakul’s favorite themes and settings, as an older woman named Jen (Jenjira Pongpas Widner) tends to a group of Thai soldiers who have fallen ill from a strange sleeping sickness in a schoolhouse that’s been converted into a hospital.

cemetery2-04The supernatural is always at play in Weerasethakul’s works, and here, the makeshift hospital is built over an ancient burial ground, which may or may not be the catalyst for this mysterious illness. Spirits come and go throughout the film, as goddess statues turn to flesh and Jen’ favorite comatose soldier visits her through a pretty young medium. Cemetery of Splendor is a truly intoxicating, spellbinding experience, one I won’t soon forget, even if I struggle to articulate those feelings and thoughts.

cemetery2-03Cemetery of Splendor premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, but was released theatrically in the U.S. by Strand Releasing earlier this year. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

With: Jenjira Pongpas Widner, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram, Petcharat Chaiburi, Tawatchai Buawat, Sujittraporn Wongsrikeaw, Bhattaratorn Senkraigul, Sakda Kaewbuadee

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