Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Director and Writer Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest is a meditation on memory.
Jessica (Tilda Swinton) is a Scottish woman who hears a loud ‘bang’ at daybreak. This peculiar sound appears to be only heard by herself. Her curiosity takes her to a sound booth where she attempts to recreate the ‘bang’ she heard. Later, when she is travelling through the jungles of Colombia, she begins experiencing a mysterious sensory syndrome. Leading her to wonder if the ‘bang’ she’s been hearing is more than just a sound.
Weerasethakul’s slow — intentional — pacing leaves room for long takes. There are scenes where Jessica lays on the grass in the jungle and Weerasethakul stays there with her for an extensive amount of time. These scenes tend to test the patience of the viewer, however, they parallel the themes of memory and meditation throughout Memoria. They allow the audience to sit in silence and memorize each frame.
Memoria wouldn’t be as successful as it is if it didn’t have Swinton. Her magnetic charisma works to the Film’s advantage. The audience is enthralled by Jessica’s curiosity about the ‘bang’ because of Swinton’s commanding onscreen presence. In those long, quiet moments audiences would lose their attention. But having Swinton as the leader makes all those quiet moments riveting to watch.
Weerasethakul uses some of the best Sound Design in recent memory. When the ‘bang’ arrives, we feel as thrown as Jessica with how loud the sound is. When viewed in a cinema, the sound vibrates the seats making for an encompassing viewing experience. These short, loud moments are contrasted with those quiet, meditative scenes, which makes the sound all the more impactful.
Memoria is a slow burn that challenges its audience. It might be too taxing for some. But those who accept the challenge will think about this haunting Film long after viewing.
Elevation Pictures release MEMORIA in theatres Friday, May 13, 2022.