Apichatpongian Film Style as Meditative Practice: Form, Drift and Contemplation

Duncan Caillard

University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Over the past twenty years, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has established an innovative, idiosyncratic and globally-influential body of work across narrative cinema, experimental film and visual art. Noted for its presentation of Thai spirituality, its dreamlike aesthetics and its languid rhythm, Apichatpong is often classified with other acclaimed directors of the global ‘slow cinema’ movement, such as Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-liang and Abbas Kiarostami. However, I reject this classification and argue that Apichatpong’s work can be more meaningfully classified as ‘Apichatpongian,’ with its own antecedents, characteristics and followers that cannot be easily understood under the global umbrella of ‘slow cinema.’  Rather, I consider ‘Apichatpongian Style’ as a distinctly Thai phenomenon – embodied by Anocha Suwichakornpong, Phuttiphong Aroonpheng and Sompot Chidgasornpongse – linked not only by close stylistic, professional and institutional connections between filmmakers, but also in cultural and religious traditions distinctive to those filmmakers. In particular, I argue that the key characteristic of this style is an orientation away from narrative comprehension to contemplation, transforming the act of spectatorship as a form of meditative practice. Through Theravada Buddhism, I argue that these films function primarily as tools to be used rather than understood, to allow users to drift, contemplate and transcend.


Biography: To come

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