Syndromes and a Century

Syndromes and a Century

2007, NR, 105 min. Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Starring Nantarate Sawaddikul, Jaruchai Iamaram, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Nu Nimsomboon, Jenjira Pongpas, Sophon Pukanok, Arkanae Cherkam.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., July 13, 2007

In the spirit of complete candor, I feel I should admit that I spent the majority of Syndromes and a Century completely lost. In my defense, I hung in there pretty well for a while: Despite the fact that the film is composed almost entirely of long shots, I managed to pick out and recognize the main characters – a couple of doctors, a few monks, a dentist – and I sensed with just the right amount of intellectual acumen that Thai director Weerasethakul was trying to say something with his detached camera placement about the emotional distance that separates people in our post-industrial world. (Not that he’s subtle about it: He even shoots a marriage proposal at 50 paces.) And though the storyline tends toward the more meandering end of the narrative scale (where Terrence Malick and Andrei Tarkovsky keep summer homes), there was a straight enough current amidst all those reveries for me to keep my bearings … or so I thought. Because when things suddenly went spinning off into abstraction halfway through the movie, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why: Characters started having the same conversations they’d had at the beginning of the movie, only in different places. And then came the repeated, ominous dolly shots of a Buddha statue, followed by extended visual poems starring a roomful of heavy machinery. Huh? What happened to those characters I was just getting to know? The cute country doctor, for example, who may or may not have had a love affair with a man who runs a plant shop and who is now fighting off the advances of a lovelorn janitor who is trying, unsuccessfully, to mope his way into her arms? Or the Buddhist monk who has recurring dreams about being attacked by chickens? Or the dentist who sings country music to erase the memory of having killed his brother when they were children? Where did they go? And why did they go there? And why have they been replaced by menacing smoke machines in sterile, fluorescent basements, never to be heard from again? Honestly, I can’t say. Watching Syndromes and Century is like reading a Samuel Beckett novel, only it’s slow, confusing, and bleak. Okay, so it’s like reading a Samuel Beckett novel. (AFS@Dobie)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Apichatpong Weerasethakul Films
Cemetery of Splendor
Thai film is a realist fantasy about a strange sleeping sickness

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 15, 2016

Mysterious Object at Noon
...

March 23, 2019

More by Josh Rosenblatt
SXSW Film Review: <i>Bikes vs. Cars</i>
SXSW: Bikes vs. Cars
Swedish doc looks into the war between wheels

March 16, 2015

SXSW Film Review: <i>Sweaty Betty</i>
SXSW: Sweaty Betty
A dog, two single dads, and a 1,000-pound pig

March 15, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Syndromes and a Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Nantarate Sawaddikul, Jaruchai Iamaram, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Nu Nimsomboon, Jenjira Pongpas, Sophon Pukanok, Arkanae Cherkam

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle