Dreams are destiny in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, a drama set in rural Thailand, in a military hospital for soldiers who have mysteriously fallen asleep. The movie focuses on Jen, a nurse with a lame leg, who is one of the therapists working to revive the soldiers. History mixes with mythology and mysticism as a psychic channels the spirits of the sleeping soldiers and two incarnations of ancient princesses appear to provide a plot detail. The metaphysical and spiritual elements receive a serious, almost reverential treatment, which may be amusing to a western audience, whereas the secular and modern gets more of a tongue-in-cheek treatment, whether it’s a sendup of popular cinema or beauty products. Aesthetically, Weerasethakul’s approach is art house porn—labored, atmospheric, slow and dull: we see a person pop a squat, urine drip into a bag interminably. Cemetery of Splendour may require the temperament of a monk to unpack. It’s not worth it.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White