Memoria Film Review

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Memoria: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Enigmatic Masterpiece

Memoria is director Apichatpong Weerasethakul at his best and most daring, captivating audiences with its hypnotic tone and a startlingly refreshing conclusion. With this film, Weerasethakul ventures beyond his native Thailand, both in terms of language and setting, immersing himself in Colombia and crafting a multilingual narrative in English and Spanish. Despite this shift, Weerasethakul retains his ability to tap into otherworldly realms and create thought-provoking art. Memoria showcases his signature trademarks, such as mesmerizing long takes, nuanced dialogue, and a non-linear narrative structure. Notably, even the opening title, usually introduced halfway through Weerasethakul’s previous films, only appears in the end credits of Memoria. This film solidifies Weerasethakul’s position as a master of slow cinema while simultaneously categorizing him as a genre-defying director who pushes the boundaries of cinematic storytelling.

A Challenging Journey

Similar to Weerasethakul’s masterpiece, Tropical Malady (2004), Memoria can be seen as a film with distinct halves. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the film’s complexity transcends such simplistic categorization. Each part possesses its own tonal shifts, narrative developments, and unique locations, yet they remain cohesive and interconnected, contributing to the overarching enigma of Memoria. Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of Jessica, a Scottish woman visiting her ill sister and husband in Medellín and Bogotá respectively, serves as the perfect foil for Weerasethakul’s vision. Swinton’s embodiment of Jessica’s awkwardness, human vulnerability, and mysterious allure adds depth to the character, captivating viewers from the opening shot.

The film’s hypnotic ambiance is established early on as the viewers find themselves immersed in Jessica’s bedroom at night. Shrouded in darkness, she is abruptly interrupted by a strange and unsettling noise—a sound that only she can hear and one that sets the narrative in motion. Although Memoria is not a horror film, this auditory jolt creates an intentional sense of unease that resonates best in a cinema setting, evoking goosebumps and heightening the immersive experience.

Driven by her curiosity, Jessica consults an audio engineer in an attempt to recreate the mysterious sound she hears. This leads her on a journey into the Colombian jungle—an environment where Weerasethakul feels most at home. Drawing upon his recurring themes of death, the afterlife, the otherworldly, and reincarnation, the director intricately weaves these elements into the natural world. Exploring Memoria’s approach to these themes without revealing too much is challenging, as it would explore spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, Jessica’s quest for discovery takes unexpected turns, defying traditional narrative conventions.

A Cinematic Revelation

Apichatpong Weerasethakul excels at crafting endings that resonate with audiences long after they leave the theater. In the case of Memoria, the final part of the film begins approximately 45 minutes before the credits roll, marking it as a unique and entrancing finale. However, Weerasethakul takes it a step further, introducing an almost preposterous scene about 10 minutes before the end. At first glance, this scene may baffle viewers, but Weerasethakul’s comfort zone lies in his ability to seamlessly incorporate introspective slow takes of characters and the captivating beauty of the jungle through stunning cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (known for his work on “Call Me by Your Name”) and absorbing sound design.

This audacious conclusion amplifies the unearthly complexity of Memoria. As the screen finally fades to black and the title appears, viewers may find themselves feeling lightheaded and transported, unable to tear their gaze from the screen. Memoria’s appeal lies in its open-ended ambiguity, never guiding viewers down a predetermined narrative path but allowing them to draw their own conclusions. Weerasethakul’s masterful storytelling does not present a frustrating experience, even in the face of uncertainty. Instead, Memoria poses an enjoyable and satisfying challenge, inviting audiences to engage with its intricate layers while delivering one of the year’s boldest and most thought-provoking conclusions.


Memoria is a mesmerizing and enigmatic masterpiece by renowned director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Through its hypnotic tone, nuanced storytelling, and captivating performances, the film transcends conventional boundaries and immerses viewers in a world of intrigue and exploration. Weerasethakul’s mastery of slow cinema, combined with his fearless approach to pushing cinematic boundaries, solidify his status as an exceptional filmmaker.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Memoria a horror film?

No, Memoria is not a horror film. While it features unsettling elements and moments of tension, its primary focus lies in exploring themes of mystery, introspection, and the human connection to the supernatural.

2. How does Memoria differ from Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s previous films?

Memoria showcases Weerasethakul’s continued exploration of otherworldly realms and his distinctive slow cinema style. However, it also presents a shift in language, setting, and narrative structure, allowing the director to further expand his artistic vision and challenge traditional storytelling conventions.

3. How does Tilda Swinton’s performance contribute to Memoria?

Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of Jessica adds depth and intrigue to the film. Her ability to embody the character’s vulnerability, awkwardness, and mysterious allure enhances the viewers’ engagement with Memoria’s enigmatic narrative.

4. Can you explain the significance of the Colombian jungle in the film?

The Colombian jungle serves as a rich and symbolic backdrop for Memoria. Weerasethakul seamlessly integrates themes of death, the afterlife, the otherworldly, and reincarnation into the natural world, blurring the boundaries between the tangible and the transcendent.

5. How would you describe Memoria’s conclusion?

Memoria’s conclusion is both unique and entrancing. As the film nears its end, viewers are treated to a mesmerizing blend of introspective slow takes, captivating cinematography, and absorbing sound design. The closure, while audacious and open to interpretation, lingers in the minds of viewers, leaving them with a sense of awe and fascination.