« The Thai director who shows the future of cinema », 24/05/2018, BBC Culture
Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul encourages sleeping in the cinema and thinks virtual reality has major creative potential, writes Jessica Kiang.
It’s a strange thing to meet a stranger whose dreams you’ve dreamed. That’s what it feels like to find myself sitting across from Apichatpong Weerasethakul one afternoon in the thick-carpeted quiet of a Doha hotel. We are both at Qumra, a week-long industry event held annually in the Qatari capital, at which Apichatpong is one of 2018’s attending ‘masters’. It is easy to feel dislocated and rootless here: a few miles away the skeleton scaffolds of future World Cup stadiums rear up from shifting sands, and outside, the bright paving stones of the already immaculate souk are being scrubbed of the last few hours of history once again. Everything feels new and clean and spaciously empty, except this room, which I’m fanciful enough to imagine teeming with a shared lexicon of imagery and ideas. In here, there are talking baboons, sleeping soldiers, ghosts and goddesses, doctors swigging hooch from stashes hidden in prosthetic legs and dead sons turned into furry, red-eyed demons that, a delighted Apichatpong claims, are often likened to Chewbacca.
All of it is a means to the same greater end, Apichatpong’s ultimate science-fiction project: the perfect communion of minds, the lossless transfer of thought. There is no precious attachment to an ossified idea of cinema for its own sake. In fact, he imagines a distant future when we won’t even need a camera or any device, when « we will be able to share dreams by hooking up our brains in a real collective sleeping. » The shimmering, transcendent, sometimes soporific, defiantly cinematic experience of his exceptionally strange stories, unfolding in the cool, focused, companionable darkness of a cinema – that’s just the best we can do right now.