Cemetery of Splendour (aka Rak ti Khon Kaen) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Eerily perplexing and mesmerizingly beautiful, Cemetery of Splendor from director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is that rare meditative non-American gem that pushes cinema forward to a direction that most will not dare to follow. It’s a journey, a surreal and a tragic one, suffused with groundbreaking valor of honesty and terror. It’s a non-verbal tale of faith, culture and everything that makes us human. In the most fundamental level - Cemetery of Splendor is just human.
As you probably deducted from the opening paragraph, this little Thai feature dubbed Cemetery of Splendor is not for everyone. Not for most, to be exact. Its contemplative nature and slow pace will either ascend you to achieving Nirvana, or would rather put you to eternal 2 hour sleep. Either or.
The film revolves around a facility in Thailand which nurtures soldiers suffering from narcolepsy – a condition that plagues its carrier with the constant desire to sleep. Since the patients can do nothing about it, this home is their only place in which proper care can be administered for them. However, underneath the physical world, it seems that larger, probably supernatural forces loom in and around the people, plaguing both the staff and the always dreamy soldiers.
Camera movement in Cemetery of Splendor is almost non-existent – meticulously reminiscing the works of such genius Tarkovsky, as well as his Polish counterpart Bela Tarr. Mr. Weerasethakul knows his craft very well, and executes it with perfection so that every scene is there for a larger purpose.
Furthermore, one cannot expect to understand Cemetery of Splendor without at least a basic understanding of Thai culture. As kings of old get awoken in the middle of the day and queens come to life via ceramic statuettes in order to discuss mundane, everyday things – one starts to understand that evoking such entities doesn’t necessary require big budget CGI chaosfests and particle effects in the billions. Rather, Apichatpong Weerasethakul shows us that indeed, the mundane and banal can also be exciting and mystical.
In continuity with its tradition, Cemetery of Splendor chooses to follow two seemingly-ordinary women named Keng and Jen – both whom we later find out wield borderline magical abilities in the form of channeling communication during a state of sleep; this proves very productive since most of the patients are almost always asleep, and their efforts come to fruition as paradigms shift and ordinary stuff transmutes into extraordinary sighting.
Cemetery of Splendor will alter one’s perceptions to no recognition. As daydreaming and mental window shopping (for ideas) extend throughout Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s feature – one can almost feel one with the Cosmos, as cheesy as it may sound. Ultimately, the film may feel like its story is thrown away in favor of visual achievements, which of course gets proven wrong when the penultimate and final shot starts creeping into the visual fields of all who are watching.
For your daily escapade into the netherworlds - Cemetery of Splendor is your go-to flick.