Rak Ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendour)
“The time left unused is the longest time.” Wise words, and especially helpful in seeking to wrap one’s head around Rak Ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendour), Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest piece. Were it not for this saying (presumably a Thai proverb), the meaning of the film might easily be lost on a viewer unfamiliar with Weerasethakul’s work, which otherwise seems destined for an audience with a very particular cinematic taste.
The story, such as it is, is set in a temporary clinic where soldiers lie side by side in their single beds, suffering from a sleeping sickness. Jenjira (Jenjira Pongpas Winder) is a volunteer at the clinic, who takes a particular interest in one of the soldiers Itt (played by Banlop Lomnoi), and the possibility that this disease may be linked to the mythical remains of a palace that lies buried beneath the building.
Weerasethakul is the winner of numerous prestigious art prizes, a fact clearly reflected in his style. Rak Ti Khon Kaen has something of the obscure art installation about it, bringing to mind the short recordings (footage of running water, melting butter, or something equally commonplace but hypnotic) played on a loop in art galleries. This film is a series of lingering, steady shots, punctuated here and there by just enough movement and dialogue to maintain intrigue.
Though at times it may be difficult to engage with the content, it could be argued that such a film demonstrates some mystical sense of spirituality and, settling into its lethargic rhythm, the soothing silence and the stillness threaten to cast a similar spell to that which keeps the soldiers in their comas.
Rak Ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendour) does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for Rak Ti Khon Kaen here: