uncle-boonmee-who-can-recall-his-past-lives-dec-1stUncle Boonmee, dying from kidney failure, decides to retire to the quiet of the Thai countryside, where he is tended to by a maid and is visited by his family. As a Buddhist he passes his remaining days in contemplation of his past lives while waiting for rebirth into the next. Herein lies the key to unlocking the magical and mystical events of his recollections. The reincarnations take both animal and human form, and the director delights in recalling Boonmee’s escapades. “Just because a movie is about life, death and transfiguration doesn’t mean it can’t have a sense of play”. – Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post. (Cert 12A)
Dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul 109 mins Thailand 2010

Programme Notes

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Thailand 2010 109 minutes Cert. 12A

This slow paced and surreal film from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady, 2004) tells the story of the remaining days in the current incarnation of Boonmee. It challenges us as western viewers to grasp the blurred realities between present and past incarnations, which take both human and animal form. Boonmee’s now dead wife, Huay, appears as a ghostly apparition, while his son Boonsong takes the form of a monkey spirit. Other characters also take animal form: the opening sequence of a buffalo freeing itself from its tether sets the scene for this mystical tale.

The film was the winner of the 2010 Cannes Palme d’Or but, later, many French critics condemned the film as pointless and boring. This evening we challenge you to decide who was right!

Boonmee – Thanapat Saisaymar
Jen – Jenjira Pongpas
Tong – Sakda Kaewbuadee
Huay – Natthakarn Aphaiwonk
Boonsong – Geerasak Kulhong

Director – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Screenplay – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cinematography – Yukoutorn Mingmongkon and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Producers – Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Simon Field, and Keith Griffiths

“It’s the most persuasive and beguiling account of mysticism and religion that I’ve seen in the cinema recently, or perhaps ever.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“More readily accessible than his previous films in its dreamlike vignette structure, yet even more resistant to concrete interpretation, this latest deadpan enigma is unlikely to significantly broaden the singular Thai filmmaker’s commercial following. But critics, cinephiles and programmers will be enraptured, as will viewers adventurous enough to surrender to the film’s Buddhist rhythms, mythical underpinnings and mesmeric images…” Justin Chang, Variety


“This Thai fantasy packed a powerful punch – universal themes, including death both in the family and within [a] military justification [context]. With the sound design being a challenge, this flawless film had a spiritual spontaneity that made it utterly engaging.”

“I am always prejudiced in favour of slow films. Beautiful to watch – confusing, of course. How important is ‘meaning’?”

“A quiet, visually beautiful film, which I found impossible to understand.”

“Quite the strangest film I’ve ever seen!! However, I did find it interesting, even though I have no idea of what it was about.”

“Strange but oddly compelling! I loved the washed out colours and dreamy mood. As for meaning – what did Antonio say?”

“I would need to see this again to understand all the meaning.”

“B for baffling? It seemed like at least three films in one!”

“Difficult to make the parts add up to a whole.”

“Felt a bit like a 45min film conflated [?] out to 1½hrs. I felt it lost quite a lot crossing [the] language/culture boundary.”

“If we came to learn some understanding of the Buddhist theory of karma from this film, we will have been disappointed. A superstitious, sensationalist, pretentious bit of fun that owed a lot to Japanese ghost stories and trick photography that became comically outdated by 1930 in the West. Introducing the supernatural ruined the [film’s] exploration of human nature.”

“Talk about Thai and Die – they must have been smoking something marvellous! I liked the bit where the catfish rogered the princess, though – never seen that before!”

“I thought the red shadow complemented Boonmee’s eyes – was this intentional, I wonder? The film was good as a travelogue – the only thing missing being a few words from the sainted D. Attenborough!”

“Was Joanna Hogg seconded to Thailand to make this film?”

“What a contrast to Archipelago! A real mess and totally lacking in coherence/philosophy. Bring back Blithe Spirit!”

“WEIRD! Was there a second, short film tacked on to the end, after the temple scene? But it was fascinating up to that point.”

“Yetis, catfish, Ophelia and inappropriate monks – what a combination!”

“And I thought last week’s [film] was slow …”

“This extended and enlarged my conceptions of tedium. Could I perhaps revise my grading of Archipelago?

“I think I fell asleep – which made it [all the] more disjointed.”

“And just when I thought I had followed the story quite well, [along] came the ending!!”

“Noting that the Variety critic stated that this was more readily accessible than the director’s previous films – please, please don’t show them!”


A:5, B:8, C:6, D:11, E:0 to give 56%