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'Memoria' left me physically shivering

There’s a movie playing at the Tallgrass Film Center this weekend, and it’s possible this is the only chance you’ll ever have to see it. It’s called Memoria, and its distributor has said it will never, ever be available to stream or on home video, and will instead travel around the country to art house theaters for months, or years, or maybe forever.

This might seem gimmicky, but that’s only true if you’re not familiar with the movie’s director, a filmmaker from Thailand named Apichatpong Weerasethakul, although he often just goes by the name “Joe.” He’s one of the few filmmakers you can genuinely call unique—not because others try and fail to imitate him, but because it would be impossible to even know where to start if you wanted to make movies like his.

Memoria stars Tilda Swinton as an expat living in Colombia who begins to hear a mysterious thumping sound in her head. And that’s about all I’m going to tell you about the plot, both because it’d be really difficult to recount anyway, and because it would do the movie a serious disservice to reduce it to a narrative description.

This is the second of Joe’s films that have left me physically shivering, after 2004’s Tropical Malady, and I’ll tell you the approach I’ve discovered works for me when watching his movies: divorce your mind from trying to intellectualize what’s happening. Don’t try to parse out the plot or the meaning or try to “solve” the movie. Thinking can come later, if that’s what you want to do. Instead, just feel. This is hard to do, it’s not what we’re trained for, but while the word “meditative” is often thrown around with slow, contemplative films, I’ve learned this truly is what Joe’s movies are. They really do seem to cycle your brainwaves down to a slower place, so much so that I simply had to stare at the ceiling for a while after Memoria ended. It was too intense to do more, or even to think about what I’d seen. At his best, this is what Joe can do, and it’s a specific place no single other director can take you.

Memoria is playing at the Tallgrass Film Center Friday, 5/6, through Sunday, 5/8.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.