#875 Mysterious Object at Noon
2000 // Thailand // Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Criterion Collection (LINK)
My impression on Thai cinema is occupied by the name Apichatpong Weerasethakul, action star Tony Jaa and the once market-dominating ghost horror films. Amidst aforementioned, Apichatpong is probably the most recognisable name among cinephiles and festival-goers, and from watching all of his major features, he totally deserves the wide admiration. His debut feature, Mysterious Object at Noon, a partly documentary and partly fictional experimental film, has sparks of his maturing sensibility and tenacity on both the mundane and the mythical.
Watching this debut is like watching several films at once. It starts like a travelogue, long shot filmed from the interior of a running car on road, visiting place after place; it soon turns into an interviewing documentary, a female fish vendor retells her childhood of being sold by her father to her uncle in exchange for money, then the offscreen interviewer (Apichatpong) follows up by asking her to tell another story, no matter real or fictional. The remaining running time would be revolve around this particular story: a wheelchair-bounded boy and his personal teacher Dogfahr who’s his only connection to the outside world. One could categorise this story as a mystical folk tales which involves a sudden collapse of the teacher, a mysterious boy who turns out to be an alien?
It’s a collaboration of creativity, the story is made up and continued by one idea after another, each is originated from different people the crew met in their filming journey, including an old peasant lady, folk song singers (story told in singing), two mute girls (story told in sign language) or a group of juvenile school kids. Visualisation is filmed with enactment by actors, and occasionally the camera would continue the shot when the story ends and the actors return to their own identity, thus further blurring the reality and the imagination. Like Abbas Kiarostami or Pedro Costa, Apichatpong effortlessly shifts between or blends the reigns of documentary and fiction via unwavering editing, thus creating an unifying cinematic vision. Mysterious Object at Noon is fundamentally rooted to the Thai’s heritage, it’s a film of collective creation and its underlining creativity, in other words, it films the imagination.