2021
Apichatpong Weerasethakul

MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON

Thailand, Netherlands / 2000 / 83’

Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Let’s recall the incipit to Mysterious. This is not about an arbitrary litany of narratives gleaned here and there, although it all seems to partake of the merry reign of messy editing. No, this is about initiating a large therapeutic detour. After a travelling that lengthily describes the shift from city to country on some street vendor’s van, what this incipit does is to interrogate a young woman in constant documentary mode, even when the film actually reaches its « zenith ». With tears in her eyes, she confesses to falling prey to some sordid bargain: her own body against the cost of a trip, her rape by her uncle in exchange for the money – 18 000 baths – that would allow her father to complete the contrary trip to the one just made by the camera itself. (money, which with J. A. W. never fails to be precisely counted, through some abrupt, numerical reminder.) To this vicious covenant, the other’s freedom as price for his own, the interviewer bluntly retorts, without so much as a hint of empathy: “Do you have another story to tell ? Either real or imaginary ?”. The hopeless alternative throws the woman into a state of bewilderment, and yet she is not powerless, for she immediately weaves this fable into episodes, with the next shot abruptly introducing its two protagonists: Professor Dogfahr and her crippled pupil. Thus, the first “poetic” start of the film has nothing exquisite to itself, it is the corpse of a spoliated childhood, showing how crucial it is to take the road to oblivion, treading paths that are “real” or “imaginary”.
Jean-Pierre Rehm, Cahiers du cinéma, April 2005

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