Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
The film is a tribute to the director's parents and is divided into two parts, with the characters and dialogue in the second half essentially the same as the first, but the settings and outcome of the stories different. The first part is set in a hospital in rural Thailand, while the second half is set in a Bangkok medical center.
This being the third film from Weerasethakul I’ve seen lately, the others were Uncle Boonmee and Tropical Malady, I can honestly state that I quite enjoyed every one of them to different levels. Even if Syndromes and a Century might be the one that pleased me the least, I can surely say that I think that Weerasethakul stands as one of the most interesting directors working today. Bringing a fresh look at movies despite the fact that his films are independent productions with limited release, they are pleasing art house lovers and cinephiles from around the world.
Based on Weerasethakul’s parents first encounters, Syndromes and a Century also is a great meditation on life, memory, and the reason why we remember some things in a particular way while reality might be different. It is also a reflection on how two souls can meet and are destined to be united. Like in his other films, there’s a spirituality that reminds us how life in Thailand is more centered on beliefs and how there aren’t much cynicism about religion and cults. Weerasethakul makes a statement in all his films to include at least one scene that reminds us this particular element of his culture. Reincarnation, just like in Uncle Boonmee, is part of the character’s lives and a soul can be represented in many skins or forms.
Speaking of form, Weerasethakul’s films are often split in two parts, the first one a reality closer to ours while the second part is more allegorical and dream-like. At first, it illustrates the reality in a different light or even a parallel universe. Then, it let’s the viewer catch the subtleties that the first part was hiding and revisit some themes with slight changes to illustrate his story.
As aforementioned, Syndromes and a Century might be the least convincing film in my quest in the films of Weerasethakul so far. But it is still one of the most interesting films of the first decade of the 21st Century.