Keimena #34: Rak ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendour)
by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Monday August 7, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Rak ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendour), 2015, Germany/France/UK/Thailand, 122 min.
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Cemetery of Splendour is Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s seventh feature film. In a provincial city in Thailand’s northeast, soldiers deployed on a construction project come down with a strange sleeping sickness and receive treatment in a makeshift clinic. A friendship develops between two of their volunteer carers, who discover that the soldiers’ digging has disturbed an ancient royal cemetery said to lie beneath the clinic, and that this has caused their mysterious illness.

Sickness is a central motif of Apichatpong’s oeuvre, an index of not just physical but also social and historical ills—a shared pathology. The film was released after Thailand’s 2014 relapse into military dictatorship, a time of acute insecurity piqued by the failing health of the revered King Bhumipol, who died the following year after seven decades on the throne. But it may be hard to discern the political frustration driving the piece, which is suffused with the director’s trademark equanimity: his ease with the mundane exchanges of modern life, with uncanny spiritual traffic, and with the crossings and collisions of the two.

Cemetery of Splendour suggests that what is repressed inevitably finds its way into our everyday reality, and that the world we inhabit is not separate from the ones we dream. Though set unmistakably in the here and now, it is a present permeated by the past, ancient, and recent—a landscape that remembers—where the dead revisit us like old friends, and what we bury does not stay in the ground forever.

—David Teh, curator, critic and Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore

Posted in Public TV on 08.07.2017