Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ~ (2010, Thailand) ~ Netflix Stream

The director, ok…here goes: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is the same director who gave us 2006’s Syndromes and a Century. This later film is in the same vein as that one – long silences and a pace as slow as a water buffalo. Did someone say water buffalo? The film starts with a six minute nearly static shot of a water buffalo. Yet it is hypnotic. For a film without a lot of action (excepting sex with a catfish)….Wait. Did I say sex with a catfish?  Well, you’ll just have to see the film. It’s actually quite a lovely scene.

Uncle Boonmee is dying from liver failure. And his sister comes to visit him. And his dead wife. And his long lost son. Now a Monkey Ghost. It’s quite a dinner and quite a reunion. Especially since no one seems to be particularly shocked. It’s all taken in stride. Nature here is a very palpable thing. The director’s pacing is such that the viewer is forced to contemplate what is put in front of the viewer.Take a deep breathe. Exhale slowly.

Uncle Boonmee is wondering about his past lives and reincarnation is treated as a fact of life. He worries that he may have bad karma: there’s his disease. Maybe he’s being punished for the many communists he has killed. When he feels he’s nearing his end, his ghost-wife leads him on a trek through the jungle to a cave that he believes was the place of his first birth. There he dies.

In the west, we believe that when we die our life flashes before our eyes in a blur. In the east, we revisit the places of our past lives, gaining understanding and peace. Gimme that.

A Palme d’Or winner at Cannes 2010.


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