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Syndromes and a Century

‘Don’t tempt me with nature’, young Dr Nohng (Jaruchai Iamaram) tells his girlfriend when she suggests moving out of the city. The natural world is always a beguiling presence in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, though ‘Syndromes and a Century’ – created under the banner of Peter Sellars’ New Crowned Hope festival – offers equally captivating, if less relaxing, glimpses of mechanical subjects. For each leisurely, tranquil shot of a forest composed in half a dozen shades of green, there’s a stack of artificial limbs or the weird sight of dust being sucked from a room by an industrial pump.

Like Apichatpong’s last two features, ‘Blissfully Yours’ and ‘Tropical Malady’, ‘Syndromes…’ offers two incarnations of the same tale, this time a sort of romance with a medical setting. (It’s roughly based on the early working lives of the director’s parents, both doctors.) The two parts share certain set-ups – entertaining interview scenes involving Nohng’s recruitment and an ageing monk’s check-up, for instance – but in other ways they diverge entirely. This formal structure allows for the exploration of a series of gentle oppositions, between female and male perspectives, rural and urban settings, natural and artificial light, fixed and mobile camerawork.

Apichatpong’s sensuous, impressionistic approach draws out the enervating and tranquilising effects of bureaucracy, invites sympathy and humility for all (from a singing dentist to a senior doctor with an innovative hiding place for hooch), and makes an open secret of the filmmaking process itself. To watch it is to feel the fuzzing of the boundaries between memory, happiness and cinema.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday September 21 2007
Duration: 105 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Screenwriter: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cast: Sakda Kaewbuadee
Arkanae Cherkam
Sophon Pukanok
Jenjira Pongpas
Nantarat Sawaddikul
Jaruchai Iamaram
Nu Nimsomboon
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peter

I saw this film in Paris, with my wife. We both found it quite a boring experience.

Lee Jolleys

To say that this film is hard to get into is putting it lightly. Maybe the film wasn't made for a Sheffield audience on a Friday afternoon in late Autumn but it certainly got a chilly reception. I counted four people that walked out before the end and there was definately reflief on the face of the other 40 or so people in the cinema when the credits came on after 140 mins of the most slow placed cinematography seen for some time. Syndromes & ... started out as apparently a comedy but maybe the script didn't translate so well into English and the only one-liner that got even a chuckle from the audience was the one about a brothel. No doubt the Art-House fans will laud this film up and maybe myself and virtually everyone else in the cinema at the showing I attended failed to grasp the films true meaning but this is one film I definately won't be recommending to anyone to see or looking forward to the speical edition DVD.