Like Mija in Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, the eponymous, ailing protagonist of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is similarly haunted by memory and mortality. Retiring to a secluded country estate to live out his final days in the company of concerned family and friends (as well as a devoted Laotian illegal immigrant [Sakda Kaewbuadee] who administers his dialysis), Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) is soon visited by ghosts from his past – his late wife, Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk) who had died decades earlier, and son, Boonsong (Geerasak Kulhong) who had disappeared as a university student (alluding to the communist movement of the 1970s), and has now emerged from the jungle as a transmogrified monkey-man. Expounding on the themes of reincarnation, parallel lives, and eternal recursion explored in Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong gorgeously conflates past and present, history, and subconscious into an indelible stream of consciousness, where the troublesome geopolitics of porous national borders serve as a mundane, yet poetic metaphor for the interpenetrating modes of reality that haunt our human struggle for legacy and meaning.
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