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“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” by Apichatpong Weerasethakul Review Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2022

Introduction

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives stirred different emotions and still makes many viewers recall some film’s shots connected with life after death. This paper is going to unveil the subjects of phantoms presented in the film as the unveiling features of a dying man’s deathbad concerns. Significantly, the film is a masterful piece of art created to convey the life’s impermanence through spiritual forms and to showcase the ability of every viewer to relate and sympathize with the protagonist, although not everyone may agree with this one. The main idea conveyed here would be Uncle’s actual vision of the death itself. The essay will discuss that Uncle Boonmee was not afraid to die; moreover, he was presented to a unique opportunity to travel through lives of his own and through spaces. Please, see this subject unveiled through examination of different uncanny and queer spaces and figures appearing in the film, prompt number two.

Theme Background

This is a story of two last days of a man who is dying from a kidney disease and tries to find out why it is through recalling his life and assessing everything he has done. The plot seems to be entangled at first not until you understand Uncle Boonmee goes through the past life’s stories and ends up in a cave where his soul was first born. There were multiple questions arising in my head while watching the film. However, once it finished I understood the main criteria and the center point to assess this movie by – what is the meaning of life? Indeed, there are those scenes that merely make you terrified (sex with a catfish) or simply stumbled (the beast-like son) but what is important here is how Apichatpong Weerasethakul created those unreal and phantasmagorical spaces to win popularity and Palm d’Or.

The First Uncanny Creature Meaning

Remarkably, the director showcases Uncle Boonmee’s ability to interact with talking animals and otherworldly visitors but he is completely unable to rationalize their actual existence. This is what the film is outstanding for – presentation of ever-interesting and bothering-the-soul questions that we frequently allow to come up to the surface of our conscience. One of them is death. This masterpiece introduces us to the relations we are afraid to admit existence of – the ones between living and dead. I have come to this conclusion while watching these simple camera work and the lighting techniques that helped understand the queers even when it was a little confusing in the middle of the motion picture to understand the director’s intent. Interestingly, Weerasethakul’s work brings forward Uncle Boonmee’s wife as a symbol of a sick man’s uncompleted deeds; she passed away and now is appearing as a ghost. Here, the concept of the protagonist not being afraid to die comes ahead – the scene with a wife is very sympathetic and calming. We see this scene unveiling on his deathbed; I was deeply touched disregarding the weirdness of the situation. This scene occurs in order to show the significance of present life’s belongings in comparison to the reincarnating travels the protagonist has. He is a docile man who strives to find out anything about his beloved ones, including his son. Thus, the spiritual world gives him an opportunity to indulge into a loving and a gone-by-days’ atmosphere when hugging his wife. It has to be noticed that the surrounding supportive people who gathered together to take care of a dying man do not ignore the otherworldly creatures. On the contrary – they are highly religious folks, they pray, and pay tribute to God and spiritual world, thus they admit wife’s and son’s existence (who appears as an ape like creature). So, in order to prove my idea that the director tried to convey total calmness before death, it has o be said that Boonmee got what he wanted – he saw his son and wife and therefore, his life can now be ended peacefully. The entire episode of the wife appearing in Boonmee’s life is a sign of what every person can sympathize with. This is a level of understanding that anyone can acquire and relate to. Moreover, it is necessary to say that such after life, death, and ghosts issues impact the Uncle Boonmee greatly in a way of changing the entire concept of death as we are used to percept it. As I see it, the director did not intend to present death as an inevitable and sad expiration date that every one of us has. On the contrary, the wife’s ghost is telling us that Boonmee is facing this realty while being privileged to see the previous lives and knowing his existence will continue in further life reincarnations.

The Second Phantasmagorical Symbolism

Interestingly, the second queer space to analyze is the forest where the main hero’s son found his refuge, the nature shown throughout movie in particular. This is amazing that the viewer has an opportunity to recognize the son’s character in that hairy ape-like creature together with the protagonists: “This is your son, I recognized his voice” (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). However, unlike the actual Uncle Boonmee and the relatives surrounding him during his final days, we see much more – the overall picture of how the son enters his dad’s life in that terrible guise and how the nature explains the dumb scenes, the latter can be much more revealing than the most fabulous dialogues.

To be more exact, it has t be notice that the notion of death is closely interacted with the issue of religion and God in this film. The family we are presented to is extremely religious and they pray a lot in order to get to the better places after death. Moreover, the substance of God is repeated when showing the son’s lost soul. According to the plot this is the son who mated with an animal and got his punishment from God to be animal-like. So, when he appears in front of the family – it is a sign of Uncle Boonmee’s relief that he finally found his son though in a very unexpected shape and appearance. Although God was not merciful to his son, he is now very gracious to bring the wife and the son to see dad before he dies. This all relates to what the protagonist thinks about before his death because son was one whom he hasn’t seen for many years. The space created is the relation of God’s foresight towards the Uncle Boonmee, this is how he imagines everything to be. Although it is unrealistic to see the disappeared people in various guises, the director creates such an encounter in order to show how life is permanent and there is maybe a slight chance to transcend reality and implement everything undone before leaving this life.

Conclusion

Uncle Boonmee was granted to go through the previous life experiences in order to open the door to other feelings rather than sadness on the deathbed. There are multiple scenes that a viewer would not understand at first unless presented to the state-of-the-art content in advance. The film happens to be a great tribute to the filmmaking industry by its outstanding unveiling picture of human worries and concerns through spirituality created around a dying protagonist. A wonderful work of the director and the film crew makes it unbelievable enjoying to sit back and observe the uncommon plot uncovering in front of you. The impossible creatures are reviving and make sense as soon as you comprehend what exactly the mail character goes through and how those figures relate to the overall picture.

Works Cited

Weerasethakul, Apichatpong, dir. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Kick the Machine, 2010. Film.

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IvyPanda. 2022. ""Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" by Apichatpong Weerasethakul Review." January 13, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/uncle-boonmee-who-can-recall-his-past-lives-by-apichatpong-weerasethakul-review/.

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