Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave - the birthplace of his first life.Written by
Inspired by the book "A Man Who Can Recall Past Lives" by Phra Sripariyattiweti of Sang Arun Forest Monastery, Khon Kaen. Published in August 23, 1983. See more »
The first time a ghost appears, during dinner, the nephew passes the ghost a glass of water. You can see the ghost image superimposed over the nephew's arm when he places the glass of water on the table. See more »
"Facing the jungle, the hills and vales, my past lives as an animal and other beings rise up before me." This quote appears on the screen at the start of the film and is indicative of what we'll see. Uncle Boonmee is a farm owner in rural Thailand, up in the hills, and is dying of kidney disease. In this period of his life visions of past incarnations and other supernatural visions will appear to him. The movie is staggeringly and outrageously beautiful, whether it's the way light is falling on coloured mosquito nets in a darkened room or its fractured scatter on a quartz cavern, or a vision of a palanquined princess seen through veils, being carried through a susurrating forest on a narrow track.
Apitchatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul's profound respect for life comes through well in the film. A recurring theme in his films are medical scenes with the long term ill. This is apparently because he grew up in a hospital, both his parents being doctors, and so he was very used to seeing sick people. The scenes where Boonmee requires dialysis are therefore very easy and compassionate. The whole movie has a great gentleness as regards mise-en-scene. You just can't get enough of this stuff, simple human scenes where people cuddle and care for one another. I like also how darker things are dealt with elliptically, for example a water buffalo at the start which breaks free of it's tether, but realises after wandering in the forest that it has nowhere to go and no role to play out. Docile it returns with the farmer who has gone out looking for it. I take that as being allegorical, with the dark hulk representing a human spirit in anguish, though the straight up incarnation viewpoint is obviously affecting too. One thing Joe said in his Q&A after the film is that he's very keen on individual interpretations of the film, of which he has seen many types, so come prepared and be a creative watcher! Boonmee believes he is ill because he killed too many communists and also too many bugs on his farm (via the use of chemical pesticides). So the idea of karma runs through the movie as well. A spirit in the movie talks about heaven and says that it's overrated, and that nothing ever happens there. I found that quite funny (the movie is frequently amusing), because I've always thought of the view of heaven by the Abrahamic religions as quite problematic, that none of them can really make sense of it, of how to frame life once life is gone, once the struggle is over.
There's homage in the film to the movies that Apitchatpong grew up watching, and understanding that this is intentional may help to explain some rather odd special effects. I think as well is helps to have a knowledge of Thai current events and a little history, especially with the final scenes.
Quite incredibly special, like Katie, who this is for.
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