Many filmmakers strive for their work to tap into a certain dream-like narrative, unbound by traditional logic and driven by subconscious desire, but while David Lynch and Christopher Nolan dazzle equally with their unique approaches, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”) may best them both by adhering most to that elusive goal. His films are known for their tranquil, seemingly dissociative threads of imagery, which sometimes even threaten to isolate the viewer in the process, but recently the director has expressed other wishes for his particular brand of storytelling.
Speaking at the Locarno Film Festival, where he is heading up the international competition jury, Weerasethakul told IndieWire his latest project will delve into the minds of those afflicted with sleeping sickness, and will explore “how their minds work during that specific time, how light can influence their dreams and memory.” With the film, he’s interested in how people experience the present, re-experience the past, and what lies in the middle, but for Weerasethakul, that occurrence is closely tied to the act of filmmaking itself. “There isn’t really any present. Everything you’re doing right now is gone the second after,” he said, “I want to capture that process when I’m thinking, and also when I’m shooting a film. I write less in order for things to evolve organically when we shoot. The script is there to be torn apart.”
With mention of dreamscapes and possible filmmaking parallels, one can’t help but turn immediately to “Inception” and its portrayal of such to this newest project. However, it’s more likely the similarities will end with the subject matter, since Weerasethakul mentioned Nolan’s film in an interview with us last year, and found himself dismayed by its literal-mindedness throughout. “I like it, it made me feel that I was watching a movie, and at one point it was very magical, but somehow it is too logical.” Not an unpopular opinion from that film’s critics, but at least one that holds ground next to the challenging fragments of ‘Uncle Boonmee’ and “Syndromes and a Century” (which both deal with the elusiveness of memory).
That’s not to say Weerasethakul is absolutely opposed to blockbusters — he credits “E.T.” as one of the films that inspired him to begin filmmaking — but if anything’s clear by now, it’s that the director has fashioned a specific, compelling style that he will continue to explore in future endeavors, no matter the genre. His latest is still in the writing stages, but considering the man’s insanely prolific output, we expect to hear rumblings about this one sooner rather than later.