Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

08 August 2011

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

The Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives opens with the following epigram:

Facing the jungle, the hills and vales, 
my past lives as an animal and other beings rise up before me.

The film is striking and fascinating (don't see it if you don't like slow pictures, though) but I also just really loved the idea of the past as an animal hanging out in the forest.

L.P. Hartley's novel The Go-Between famously begins with the phrase The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. And I've always loved that idea of trying to go back to the past as though it is somewhere else.

But in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film Uncle Boonmee, the past isn't somewhere to go, it's something that never goes. Instead, it hangs about, sometimes making things difficult, sometimes comforting one. It is not a place that one can leave. The past is a kind of creature that one must learn to live with in harmony or at least having called a kind of truce.