Empty your mind and enter a Zen-like state before watching Syndromes And A Century. This is anything but a conventional romance story, instead feeling like a series of loosely threaded musings about the nature of love and happiness. Buddhist filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul bases this wistful film on thoughts of his parents, both doctors, here confronted with various types of the 'out-of-whack' while each tries to find their own happy balance.
Weerasethakul takes an almost fly-on-the-wall approach to the doctors going about their daily business. Initially that makes it difficult to identify with Dr Toey (Nantarat Sawaddikul) whose mind drifts whilst a Buddhist monk complains of being tormented by angry chickens in his dreams. Gradually though, we're drawn into her world, and it's apparent that she's thinking about an admirer who proposes marriage out of the blue. Meanwhile, Dr. Nohng (Jaruchai Iamaram) wanders the hospital corridors seeming lost, especially when questioned by Toey about his reasons for getting into medicine.
"AN ETHEREAL QUALITY"
That one-on-one is played out twice with slightly altered emphasis in different sections of the film. It's one of the more typically obscure ways that Weerasethakul underscores the notion of time and how it impacts on memory, whilst his insights into blossoming love echo previous features Blissfully Yours (2002) and Tropical Malady (2005). His fluid approach brings an ethereal quality to otherwise mundane interactions, a feeling that translates to the contrast between the stark white hospital walls and the tropical paradise just outside the windows. And wherever there is a serious malfunction, there is also plenty of dry wit, like the doctor who hides whiskey in her prosthetic limb. This portrait of life is all about the yin and the yang, so it follows that for everyone who finds it dull there are those who will be captivated.
In Thai with subtitles.
Syndromes And A Century (Sang Sattawat) is out in the UK on 21st September 2007 2007.