QCinema reviews: 'Memoria', 'The Worst Person in the World'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 29 2021 04:48 PM

Cinemas just began to open this month and QCinema International Film Festival jump-cuts the challenges and proceeds again with a hybrid festival. Last year, the festival pivoted to the new normal with a festival that featured socially distanced and by-invitation-only physical screenings coupled with online streaming. This year, from November 26 to December 5, QCinema has physical screenings at Gateway Cineplex 10 at the Araneta Center, Cubao, and online screening in cooperation with KTX. 

These two films reviewed below are the submissions of Colombia and Norway (respectively) to the Oscars for the Best International Feature Film. Aside from these two, you can also catch the Oscar submissions of Iceland ("Lamb"), Indonesia ("Yumi") and Japan ("Drive My Car") as part of the collection of films that QCinema had lined up for screening this year. 

*****

MEMORIA

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Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Written by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Jessica (Tilda Swinton) is a Scottish woman from Medellin who was in Bogota to buy a refrigerator for her flower business as well as to visit her ill sister. One early morning before dawn, she was awakened by one loud booming sound, which apparently only she could hear. She would hear this same sound over and over again at random times of the day, and in random places around the city. With the help of a young sound engineer (Juan Pablo Urrego) and an old fisherman (Elkin Diaz), she sought for the origin of this sound.

I have not seen any feature length films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul before this one. I did see a short film of his entitled "Blue," 12-minute long with not a single line of dialogue. There were a lot of such silent moments in "Memoria" as well. The opening sequence was one such long stretch of silence in a dark room which was suddenly broken by the boom sound. I felt several similarities in pace, style and vibe with Filipino auteur Lav Diaz, so I was able to get into his groove up to that head-scratching third act and climax. Tilda Swinton felt right at home with the oddness of this mysterious artistic film.

The most interesting sequence happened early in the film when Jessica was trying to describe the sound she heard to a sound engineer while he was trying to recreate it on his machine. This sequence lasted for probably 10 minutes of constant little adjustments until the right sound was reached, but it was truly fascinating. Among the several "what was that all about?" scenes, the most puzzling should be that of the old fisherman lying down to sleep on the grass beside a small creek, while the camera just hovered over his still, seemingly dead body for more than five static minutes. 

THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD

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Directed by Joachim Trier
Written by Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt

Julie (Renate Reinsve) was a young woman had been indecisive all her life. First about her career choice, as she began with the plan to become a doctor only to dither from one alternative to another. She was already living in with a famous comic book author Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) for some time already. One night while walking back to town, Julie gatecrashed a random wedding party and met coffee shop employee Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). That was when her status quo began to change. 

This two-hour film had a prologue, 12 chapters (!) and an epilogue. The major turning point was in the end of Chapter 5 "Bad Timing" when serious decisions had to be made. There was a whimsical time-freeze special effect in the first part of this chapter, but it ended with a conversation that provoked the most thoughts and emotions. Some episodes do not feel like they were entirely integral to the main story, like the one about Julie's essay, or that one about Julie's family or that one about Eivind's girlfriend. 

This was basically a rom-com which would later take serious twists and turns. With the slow pace and episodic style of storytelling, there were times when the movie can feel long and rambling. The characters all had disturbing habits and flaws, so they were all not always likable or relatable. This is a very good film, but I think it's Cannes pedigree, including Renate Reinsve's Best Actress award, could have hyped this film up a bit too much that the expectations may be too high and difficult to meet. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, “Fred Said.”