Memories from Thailand via Mozart
by Paolo Menzione
Apichatpong Weerasethakul came to prominence two years ago at Cannes, when he won the Grand Jury Prize for Tropical Malady. Now the 36 year-old former architect from Bangkok is in Venice, where he was very much wanted by Artistic Director Marco Muller, a great lover and connoisseur of Asian cinema.
In his new film, Syndromes and a Century ( Sang Sattawat), in competition for the Golden Lion, the director presents the Thailand of his childhood memories and his parents, both doctors. Two stories and two hospitals: one from the past, more dilapidated and in the middle of nowhere in the Thai countryside, and the other, ultra-modern and in the city.
“The film,” said the director in Venice, “is an unabashed homage to my parents and the places where I grew up. As a child, I spent hours and hours playing in hospitals and watching people. These are the places I love to go back to through cinema”.
In the first part, a female doctor is courted by a co-worker but is in love with someone else. In the second, a new doctor struggles with his first professional problems. The main characters are surrounded by other unique characters, also based on memories from the past: professional dentists by day who are country signers by night, or former DJs who have become Buddhist monks. Characters and situations that reappear throughout and connect the two stories, as in a classical music composition.
This is precisely where the film gets its inspiration, from the Austrian project “New Crowned Hope”, which has brought other titles to Venice as well. “This project,” explained executive producer Simon Field, “was backed by the city of Vienna for the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart. Director Peter Sellars decided to promote works by young artists capable of capturing the world’s transformations, not necessarily through music”. Such was the case for Weerasethakul, who admits to not even liking classical music.
Although produced in Thailand by the director’s company, Kick the Machine Films, the film was financed mostly in Europe. Co-produced by French outfit Anna Sanders Films, with the collaboration of Fonds Sud Cinéma, the CNC and the Ministries of Culture and the Exterior, it is being sold internationally by Holland’s Fortissimo Film Sales.
(Translated from Italian)