Bjorn Gabriels: The very basics of cinema haven’t lost their force. The simple act of placing one image after another, like you did in that incredible sequence in Uncle Boonmee in which Boonmee reflects upon this ‘time machine’ and the ‘future people’, remains very powerful.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Exactly, and cinema is so suggestive and so challenging. A book is always very open and you can imagine anything you like, but in movies the image is already there. The challenge is how to make this fixed image open, and so a film deals with time and structure to bring the audience a certain openness.
Film can be an immersive experience, but it can also be very imposing and block you, as a spectator.
Yes, in Hollywood, they do everything for you. Their special effects, which I love by the way, don’t allow you to do anything. You just marvel at them.
The special effects in your films are very basic, to a certain degree.
I want to make the audience feel that simply being able to see these various things through a lens and to capture these images on a sensor is a special effect.
Uncle Boonmee embodied this search for a shifting identity in the noughties. Even though it started with an old book, Boonmee’s life and the concept of being reborn is still very relevant. [The English title of this book is A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives (1983). It was written by Phra Sripariyattiweti, a Buddhist priest at the Sang Arun Forest Monastery near Apichatpong’s home town Khon Kaen.]
Maybe the cinematic spaces we talked about – the jungle, the cave, and the film theatre – might also embody this longing for a change that seems to run throughout your work.
Yes, because many things have already changed, such as the way we make films. Uncle Boonmee was a way to go back and say goodbye to a certain kind of cinema.
Bjorn Gabriels in conversation with Apichatpong Weerasethakul1
- 1Bjorn Gabriels, “Longing for Change. The Shifting Shapes of Aphichatpong Weerasethakul,” Sabzian, 2016.