Another film that cleaves sharply into halves, SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY was a commission from Peter Sellars’ 2006 New Crowned Hope Festival. Here the two halves are more than related, they’re all but one and the same. To read the film as a science fiction story, its characters, relationships, and events are lifted and displaced in time, and the effects are marked down to the setting—time, place, and culture. As a dream-state narrative, it becomes a movie about unfulfillable desires for potency and proficiency, both personal and professional.
A working title for SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY was INTIMACY, a telling fact, or at least an arrow pointing in a useful direction. Apitchatpong Weerasethakul’s first-act cinematic in-joke (a breaking of the fourth wall so off-handed that it’s easy to miss entirely) betrays a desire for intimacy with the audience. While the gesture might have begun as an act of self-deprecation, it could have only survived the editorial process because the film is somehow strengthened by thumbing its nose at the suspension of disbelief.
Fundamentally, though, SYNDROMES is a movie about human intimacy: interviewed during its production, Apitchatpong said, “My film will look back at the past in order to see into the future. Just people living life, inhaling and exhaling, meeting each other—these are already miracles. It’s a film about beauty.”