Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Marathon Part V of VI

“By then, I had forgotten the old world.”

The past is drawn into the present as Uncle Boonmee faces his final moments alive, literally reunited on property by the ghost of his wife and the metamorphosis of his now monkey son. If that sentence threw you off a bit, I wouldn’t blame you, but to reconsider for the absurdity that is perhaps Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s most known film, it does however confidently pull off normalizing every surreal element it brings to the table, to a point where even its greatest battle “death” is accepted comfortably amongst its universe’s immortality.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is another Weerasethakul project embellished in its cultural superstitions, where characters associate certain pasts with outcomes of the present, and attempt to plan for certain futures based on certain presents. Although, unlike his last two previous features, the halved structure isn’t exactly there. It’s more like a first half, then an intermission depicting a past life, and lastly a second half made up of a climax and an epilogue. The climax is the most apparent continuation between the first half, where we witness an intense, almost ritualistic conclusion for our main character, insinuating that there are remnants here that can’t possibly be forgotten even in the next life — our evocation just seems that powerful, huh? Case and point, this might just be thee ideal movie to watch if you’re dying, in need of believing in everlasting memory as hope.

…and then the intermission involves an elderly princess f**king a catfish for all Fluorescent Adolescent intents and purposes, but you’ve probably already heard about that infamous part of the tale…

Anyways, like all of Weerasethakul’s films so far, the epilogue here leaves us on an especially contemplative note where, this time though, we are presented a simultaneity of different activities occurring but executed by the same people, as if stages of themselves were coexisting in a timeline. If one ever needed another reminder that this is a piece in aim to challenge the conventional construct of time either in its harmony between spirits and the once only tangible living or prospects of the afterlife and the before, then this is the psychedelia of a farewell to do it, a farewell that feels as if it wants to leave you with the thought that perhaps your day-to-day life may be made up of mystic incidents too even if it isn’t from the ghost of a deceased relative or the returning of a son who is no longer human; it could very well be there in what we know as the most tangible mundanities. The film presents everything as game, everything as levelheaded.

“You created the reflection, didn’t you?”

“Without you, I couldn’t have done so.”

Brilliant costume design as well. I will furthermore not miss an opportunity to praise Sayombhu Mukdeeprom once more for making such things come to life with another perfect-looking movie. Whether there’s enough sense here or not, I could get sucked into the illusions of it forever. 

Verdict: B+

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

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