Film review: Memoria | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, November 27th, 2021  


Studio: Neon
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Oct 21, 2021 Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

The anticipation of a new Apichatpong Weerasethakul film is a strange wait. His new film Memoria—delayed by COVID and finally premiering at Cannes back in July—has, for my money, been the most exciting prospect of the year. But as with most Apichatpong films, Memoria itself is a wait, a building apprehension of eked out uncertainty.

Twilda Swinton stars as Jessica, an English woman living in Colombia. Her background is only lightly touched upon but she’s in Colombia along with her hospitalized sister, Karen (Agnes Brekke). One morning, Jessica is disturbed by a loud noise.

And here the film plays out. Throughout the film, Swinton’s character becomes increasingly troubled as the noise—unheard by others—becomes more and more present in her everyday life. She describes the noise as metallic, round, as if it were from the Earth’s core. All of these are valid descriptions, still, it’s difficult for Jessica—with her amateur Spanish—to convey not only how the noise sounds but also how it feels. It’s this search to convey an otherworldliness that penetrates not only Memoria but all of Apichatpong’s work. His first film shot outside of his native Thailand, Memoria is not only creating a foreign obstacle for himself, but for his characters too.

As Jessica wanders around Bogotá searching for answers she becomes increasingly tentative in her alien surroundings and experiences. Apichatpong forces Jessica to inhabit a purposefully controlled and clinical milieu, creating an unease and distrust within Jessica that knocks her off balance. An art gallery, a laboratory, a sound studio: all carefully regulated environments where Jessica waits for the noise to thud and to unsettle her increasingly fragile surroundings. In one scene, in an anxious search to govern the situation, we literally see her attempt to take charge when she visits a factory where they make fridges to control the environments of houseplants.

Apichatpong uses this disquiet to propel Jessica towards something more immaterial, less the source of the noise and more the intangible nature of its presence. As a stray dog roams the streets, Jessica backs away. At the table of an archaeologist she trepidatiously fingers the hole in the skull of a young girl, deceased for millennia. She’s veering away from the impersonal order of urban terrain and slowly edging towards a purer sanctuary.

Swinton is comical company in Apichatpong’s portrayal of a distracting world. A worried woman looking for the tranquility of her director’s unfaltering style. As he brings her from the uncertain modernity he depicts he marvellously extracts a quiet comedy from Jessica’s realization that her answer cannot be found within the walls of objectivity.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is operating on a different plane to most contemporary filmmakers. In a class of own (with perhaps Tsai Ming-liang the physical counterpart to Apichatpong’s spiritual mastery), he mines the texture of his films to produce patient and tender pieces of work, works that understand the whimsy of reality and the beauty of something less substantive, and Memoria is no exception. As nature and all its simplicity begins to surround us, the bigger questions, queried by Apichatpong with humor and warmth, start to echo throughout his long serene takes; his craft acting as the inquiry to his themes. Memoria is as good as any of its director’s past works, a work that rewards its viewer long after it decides to part from them. (

Author rating: 9.5/10

Rate this movie
Average reader rating: 9/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.