Syndromes and a Century

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Syndromes and a Century

Postby howardschumann(d) » Tue Oct 10, 2006 3:23 pm

Seen at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2006)

"The film is about transformation, about how people transform themselves for the better - Apichatpong

Funded by the city of Vienna as part of the celebration marking the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, Syndromes and a Century by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady), is a visionary masterpiece that blurs the boundaries of past and present and, like the plays of Harold Pinter, explores the subjectivity of memory. It is an abstract but a very warm and often very funny film about the director's recollections of his parents, both doctors, before they fell in love. According to Apichatpong, however, it is not about biography but about emotion. "It's a film about heart", he says, "about feelings that have been forever etched in the heart."

Structured in two parts similar to Tropical Malady, the opening sequence takes place in a rural hospital surrounded by lush vegetation. A woman doctor, Dr. Toey (Nantarat Sawaddikul) interviews Dr. Nohng (Jaruchai Iamaram), an ex-army medic who wants to work in the hospital, the two characters reflecting the director's parents. The questions, quite playfully, are not only about his knowledge and experience but also about his hobbies, his pets, and whether he prefers circles, squares or triangles. When asked what DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) stands for, he replies, "Destroy Dirty Things".

Like the fragmented recollection of a dream, the film is composed of snippets of memory that start suddenly then end abruptly without resolution. A dentist wants to become a singer and takes an interest in one of his patients, a Buddhist monk whose dream is to become a disc jockey. A fellow doctor awkwardly proclaims his desperate love for Dr. Toey who relates to him a story about an infatuation that she had with an orchid expert who invited her to his farm. A woman doctor hides a pint of liquor inside a prosthetic limb. A monk tells the doctor of some bad dreams he has been having about chickens. A young patient with carbon monoxide poisoning bats tennis balls down a long hospital corridor.

Syndromes and a Century does not yield to immediate deciphering as it moves swiftly from the real to the surreal and back again. Halfway through the film, the same characters repeat the opening sequence but this time it is in a modern high-tech facility and the mood is changed as well as the camera focus. The second variation is less intimate than the first, but there are no overarching judgments about past or present, rural or urban, ancient or modern. Things are exactly the way that they are and the way they are not, and we are left to embrace it all. Towards the end, a funnel inhales smoke for several minutes as if memories are being sucked into a vortex to be stored forever or forgotten. Like this serenely magical film, it casts a spell that is both hypnotic and enigmatic.


Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby hengcs » Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:56 am

wow ... i will try to catch this too

i am not sure, but do you by chance like all of his films (i.e., the style)?


Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby howardschumann(d) » Wed Oct 11, 2006 4:13 am

I have only seen one other film by him, Tropical Malady and yes I like his style very much. I met him at the VIFF but unfortunately he did not stay long enough for a Q and A.

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby A » Thu Oct 12, 2006 11:01 pm

Boy, I am becoming envious of you Howard, for getting the opportunity to watch all those films. And how do you find the time to write all the reviews in between? Thanks a lot!

Btw, do you have a link to the Vancouver lineup?

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby howardschumann(d) » Sat Oct 14, 2006 3:33 am

The official website for the VIFF is

It is over today, however. I usually see a film in the day, read the reviews at night and perhaps jot down some notes, then write my review the following morning.

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby A » Sat Oct 14, 2006 3:33 pm

What a lineup! Vancouver seems to have picked the best from most festivals over the year.

That's probably a good tactic you've adopted. My attempt to see as many films as possible at this year's Berlinale proved very bad for writing reviews. I only managed one, and made some notes on a few after the Festival had ended. But I had totally run out of steam by that point and wasn't able to write anything on my favorites anymore.
I guess I should try a different approach next time, but I'm usually such a junkie when it comes to film festivals. I actually wanted to see even more films at the Berlinale.

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby hengcs » Fri Apr 27, 2007 6:06 pm

I have just caught it in SIFF too ...

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby trevor826 » Tue Aug 21, 2007 9:03 am

Originally posted by Chard09 21 Aug 2007.

Anyone here who has seen this one? This film is beautiful and obscure, without losing the eerie Apichatpong-ness in it. Really, really sublime. And a friend made some comparisons between the film and Tarkovsky's Solaris. Quite justifiable.

Sorry. I've been away for a long time. And still haven't finished my thesis yet! Anyway, (shameless plugging) feel free to visit my blog if you have time:

Quentin Tarantino was here to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Cinemanila IFF, amidst the typhoon and oceanic streets. It's a shame I have only seen two films -- both Thai but both excellent -- this one and Ploy.

Be back soon.

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby trevor826 » Tue Aug 21, 2007 9:08 am

Reposted 21 Aug.

Great to have you back Chard09, thereis a thread for Syndromes and a Century if you'd like to repost or elaborate on your thoughts:

Syndromes and a Century thread

Hope to see you more often, I'd love to read your opinion of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's latest, Ploy.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Syndromes and a Century

Postby trevor826 » Tue Aug 21, 2007 9:10 am

Originally posted by Chard09 21 Aug

hi trev, sorry for that. you may perhaps transfer this post to that.

ploy is a knock-out. really, really good. anyway, i'll try to post a short "review" asap or probably in my blog. thanks for the warm welcome. it's been years.


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