Apichatpong on his last Thai film, ‘Cemetery of Splendour’

A lonely Thai middle-aged housewife tends a soldier with sleeping sickness. During the process, she falls into a hallucination that triggers strange dreams, phantoms and romance.

That’s what “Cemetery of Splendour,” locally known as “Love in Khon Kaen,” projected. It’s a new masterwork from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand’s most internationally acclaimed director, who won the Cannes Film Festival’s top honor in 2010 for “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.”

In his new film, Apichatpong illustrates memories of his hometown for a global audience, which was also competed at Cannes this past week.

Phanuphan Veeravaphusit spoke to Apichatpong before he flew out to France to discuss Love in Khon Kaen, the film he says will be his last set in Thailand.

Q: How is the relationship between you and your hometown (Khon Kaen) illustrated in the film?

A: I’ve filmed in Thailand a lot, but I never had a chance to tell a story in my hometown, so it feels good to use Khon Kaen to end my last movie.

I only remember when I was growing up, Khon Kaen was different than it is now. When I travel home, I see new buildings emerged, so in the movie we chose to film in the places that have not changed much but do not necessarily reflect what Khon Kaen is all about.

Q: We saw you put a large number of Thai superstitions in the movie. Do you believe in spirits and why do you present them in your films?

A: Thai people believe there is another world of spirits that exists in parallel to our world. Khon Kaen did not have much when I was growing up. Therefore, sci-fi fiction and movies were my way out [of reality] to enter my imagination. That’s why I became interested in old beliefs, the influences of the supernatural and what connects us to it.

Q: What makes “Love at Khon Kaen” different from your past movies? Did you try anything new?

A: All of my movies are inspired by my life in Thailand: the people I love, my lovers, friends and actors. In this movie, I’m inspired by Jenjira Pongpat, an actress I’ve been working with since 2001. She’s a magical woman who inspired me with her childhood memory when she was growing up in Isaan. There’s history I never knew, and she remembers everything.

The new idea I’ve experimented in this film is I focused on emotions and Jenjira, who gave the softer, more feminine aspect to the film.

Janejira Pongpat

Q: Is it true “Love in Khon Kaen” will be your last Thai film? Will you be leaving?

A: I’d still live in Thailand, but for filming, I’m considering South America because it’s as colorful as Thailand. South America is enriched with culture that I can work on.

Q: So why did you choose this to be your last Thai film to direct?

A: It’s just what I planned, but it might change in the end. I feel that Thailand is a treasure that I’ve been working in for almost 20 years, but there are also other treasures out there in the world. I’d like to challenge myself if I could connect to an unfamiliar place.
It will be a new place with a different history. That’s what I want to see.

Q: What is your message with this film?

A: I think I don’t have one. I surrender to these kind of questions. But my purpose is to reflect the emotions and feelings one experiences in life. I don’t want anything else than to share my experiences growing up in this country that sometimes you cannot face reality 100 percent of the time, otherwise you go crazy. You have to put yourself into a world of imagination once in a while, just so you can make it.

Photos: Indiewire.com

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