Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul says here that he doesn’t believe Thailand really has an identity – by this, that Thailand is not essentially ‘one thing’ and cannot be defined by anything in particular. More fittingly, it is made up of many different cultural influences, effected by many cultural/ethinic spaces, products, ideas and politics. Then he says this, which I was drawn to because I’ve just written two essays on the cinema and architectural space:
When you treat your audience, in architecture, they walk into the space, they experience the space, the light and shadow, by walking through time. So you design the space to evoke certain feelings and certain reactions from the viewer. The same with film; you use time, but I think film is more forcing the audience to experience while sitting in the dark. So I think architecture gives more freedom in a way.
Architecture gives more freedom? True, in the sense that the occupier of physical space is (to some extent, anyway) able to move however they wish through and within it. The camera frames, the camera directs. But if it allows us to expand our thought beyond what is within the frame, then this is an undeniable experience of contemplative freedom. There was a moment inhis film Blissfully Yours when Min turns the stereo in the car up so loud that my seat started to reverberate with the sound- reminding me of my corporeality. My mind involved in the film, but my body too- my aesthetic response. And, I have to repeat Eagleton again here (sorry): ‘Aesthetics is born as a discourse of the body’ (1990:13).
The feeling that stuck with me most about Apichatpong’s Blissfully Yours (2002) is that none of the characters in the film were actually very nice; I couldn’t imagine myself being friends with any of them (like the four protagonists in Seinfeld).
Which means that what I liked most about the film was that it returned me again to a state felt toward the start of semester, the aesthetic experience of the transcendental. Finn and Chaudhuri quote Paul Schrader (2003:392):
When the image stops, the viewer keeps going, moving deeper and deeper, one might say, into the image. This is the “miracle” of sacred art.
Rather than feeling connected to the characters in Blissfully Yours, nor, really to the narrative, I felt within the space of the film- a nonspecific space, undemanding, infinite. This space in which the film is created, and which is created by the film, enables the expression and production of contemplative time- time which allows thought. Rather than demanding ‘a thinking that never stops, never collects itself’, as Heidigger says (somewhere…see Frampton, ‘Filmosophy’:190) of structured calculative time, contemplative time allows us to meditate on moments within the cinematic frame, and also outside of it. This is what I love a lot about the cinema; getting lost in my own mind and struggling with my thoughts, as horrible as that sometimes is. Films which force us to stare at an image for so long, like images of faces/bodies/clouds/sun/mountains at the end of Blissfully Yours, the silent image of a woman’s face at the end of Man From London (Béla Tarr 2007), Mamo’s face, and the landscape, as the final images of Half Moon (Bahman Ghobadi 2006) provoke thoughts that they don’t control, and this is the most amazing thing about them. Whether we reach the sublime with these thoughts or merely are affected by a sense of the infinite, our mind and body can be transported into a space beyond the space of cinema.