Memoria Review

From the premise alone, Memoria screams for those that like a bit of freakish fear underlining their love of very niche prose and digestible drama. Methodical and brooding for much of its running time, Memoria takes hold of attention through its lingering pace and the emptiness that comes from it. An intentional emptiness, mind. Not an accidental problem Tilda Swinton must hurdle but one she can rely on to paint a picture with actions rather than speech. It is neither methodical nor abrasive, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul pools such slow-burning skill out of contemplative and smartly-staged sequences throughout Memoria with a lingering fascination over what it means for the character and how that can reflect onto the audience. 

There are plenty of moments that do so, and few that do it well. Memoria is not a bad feature but it is a deeply personal one for those watching, so much so that the static moments, the slow-burn, will work in spots that it doesn’t for others. There is a skill to that. Seeing Swinton walk around, staring at artwork or sitting in a recording studio, these moments will speak to some and not to others and that is no fault of Weerasethakul or Swinton, it feels like the desired effect. Those constant bumps in the night are a space for an audience to reflect on what they see, what they perceive it as before the inevitable reveal. Few performers could portray that, even fewer directors could make it as intense and contemplative as this. Weerasethakul and Swinton feel like a dream pairing. 

Memoria is given room to breathe and grow. That is what separates it from a large deluge of dramatic films, those whose prose elevates the feature to a firmer point of interest for audiences to find themselves in, and for the film to touch them in ways they had not initially expected.  Memoria is a nice film to lose yourself in, to find a different part of yourself. It is a spiritually appealing film for those willing to connect and dissect it. Some scenes feel completely disconnected from the mystery beyond it, with jam sessions in a recording studio taking up minutes just to show competent musicians playing around in some delightful music. 

Whether or not an audience opens themselves to that experience changes the success rate of Memoria. It is a film hoping to take viewers on a new form of journey through storytelling that is slower, more disorienting and disconnected than it first appears, but far sharper than the average artsy drama piece. Conversations between Swinton and a variety of faces give her the range not just to create an invigorating bit of work but also to craft believable dramatics to the backdrop of the unbelievable. There is little scrutiny for that, for the broadly accepted notion that sleep is needed and important. Jessica Holland (Swinton) hopes for it, but the bumps in the night are far more than awkward sounds or slumped-out metaphors. They’re deeper and richer than that, so long as the viewer has the perspective for it to be that way.  

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