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


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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