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Phantoms of Nabua (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2009) January 26, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Short Cuts.
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Shot, edited, and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cast: Kumgieng Jittamaat, Miti Jittamaat, Phetmongkol Chantawong

Watch it as it is, with no regard whatsoever to its background and intention, and you still get a faint sense of completeness in Phantoms of Nabua. It’s like the box you keep under the bed or inside the rusty cabinet, the box containing papers and nitty things of your youth, memories which only make sense to you, keepsakes that will only be gone once you decide to bury them in your heart and not in your mind. The implication of that, of course, is necessary. When you bury things in your heart, you may not remember them well, but you will feel them pointedly; you will remember the feeling even without connecting it to the actual memory, even without any sense of coherence, even without anything at all. Just the main feeling trying to crawl out of your heart, trying to stick out, hands and feet swinging on your cardiovascular bars, aiming for recollection without consciously wanting it.

Phantoms of Nabua lingers as far as it remains immobile, and stays as much as it tends to bring itself back to life again. It doesn’t tell the truth but it doesn’t lie either. Time is not just a concept. Time is tangible; and the film depicts time in that respect—using light as representative, representation as the only option that will suffice. Lights are everywhere: from the fluorescent lamp and the light of the projector and the screen, to the lightning and the ball of fire being kicked around, burning the grass and setting the screen ablaze. The light is the parent of the images—the parent of the film itself—the light that triggers the fire. The eerie sound of the ball being kicked punctuates the mood of its indeterminate setting, without having a before or an after, a prior or a later, and a during or a since—only a here and a there. And Apichatpong, amid all the bustling sparks, where is he? Where do we see him? Was he the one who lit the bonfire in our heads that caused the rapture? And how come it feels so familiar when we have never really been there at all?

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