In Review

Film review: Memoria 

‘Beautiful and mysterious’ arthouse film starring Tilda Swinton 

Plenty of films have been made “about things that go bump in the night”, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. Memoria may be the first that is “about the actual bump itself” – a dense, metallic thud that reverberates through a bedroom in Bogotá, waking Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a British botanist who has come to the city to visit her ill sister Karen (Agnes Brekke). As this “mesmerically strange” story unfolds, “the noise keeps creeping up” on Jessica. It is “sometimes soft, sometimes heart-joltingly loud”, and yet “no one but her” seems able to hear it. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “dreamlike avant-garde” films have always been at the “very edge” of what most audiences would think counts as cinema; this is “by far his most accessible” yet, because it’s essentially a “straightforward mystery”: “What made the sound, and where can Jessica find it?” 

“Unless you have the powers of internal amusement of the Buddha,” said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times, I’d steer clear of what seemed to me almost a “parody of an art film”. Swinton doesn’t “give a performance so much as anoint each scene with her presence”, like a visiting alien. I took advantage of the interminable rainfall shots to make tea and answer emails. Undoubtedly, some viewers will be exasperated by Memoria’s “andante tempo” and “glacially long silent takes”, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, but its “originality and boldness” left a “residue of happiness on my heart”. Weerasethakul is a true artist who asks us to consider “the unsolved and unspoken mysteries of existence: that we are born, live, die and all without ever knowing why, or often even wanting to know”. This is “beautiful and mysterious” cinema.

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