The great Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is back with a collaboration with Tilda Swinton, who plays a woman trying to get to the bottom of a loud sound that only she can hear

Film Review by Xuanlin Tham | 22 Oct 2021
  • Memoria
Film title: Memoria
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Agnes Brekke, Daniel Giménez, Jerónimo Barón, Juan Pablo Urrego, Jeanne Balibar, Aida Morales, Constanza Gutiérrez, Elkin Diaz
Release date: 14 Jan
Certificate: 12A

The films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul are impossibly tender and beguilingly strange – reorienting the way we relate to the mundane, they heighten the unassuming magic of the everyday with a gentle surrealism. Memoria is possibly Weerasethakul’s most sensorily transportative work yet, employing a cinematic language where what we hear takes full narrative precedence.

Tilda Swinton plays Jessica, an English orchid farmer in Colombia who's haunted by a mysterious loud bang that only she can hear. As she attempts to unearth the nature or origin of the sound, it seems that Memoria (Weerasethakul’s first film outside Thailand) is deeply concerned with the problem of translation. As Jessica painstakingly moulds both Spanish and English to describe the bang, the film unravels the deep fallibilities of language: how do we ever shape the verbal to perfectly approximate the aural, or communicate the isolating specificity of personal experience to someone else? An answer is suggested, and Memoria rewards its most open-minded listeners with a quietly dizzying revelation.

Unreservedly patient with its stillness, the film creates space for the seamless erosion of boundaries between the past and the present, the earthly and the spectral. Reminding us that even a small stone carries centuries of rich history, Memoria invites us to become attuned to deep time, leaving us with the feeling that the landscapes around us are lush with secrets and memories – if only we would pay attention. A cerebral and elusive puzzle, Memoria creates echoes that reverberate long after we leave the cinema.

Memoria had its UK premiere at London Film Festival; in UK cinemas from 14 Jan via Sovereign Film Distribution