Mysterious Object at Noon

I just watched the fascinating experimental Thai film, Mysterious Object at Noon (2000), directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Weerasethakul, who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, based the film’s structure on the Surrealist concept of “the exquisite corpse,” which weez described a few weeks ago.

In the film version, Weerasethakul asked Thai townspeople (usually people living in the country with little knowledge of film) to tell part of a story during three years in the late 1990s. The basic situation involves a disabled boy and a teacher who visits him daily in his house because he is unable to travel to school. She leaves the room for a moment and then doesn’t return, worrying the young boy. The narrators often struggle to add to the story. Sometimes they backtrack, filling in missing details and making connections with Thailand’s past. Others enthusiastically plunge the story forward, adding magical or unexpected details, many of which the director re-creates with amateur actors.

Because Mysterious focuses on these stories, the film is essentially about the filmmaking process itself. Mysterious is a low- (more like no-) budget film, using an amateur crew and cheap film stock and cameras, and in fact, the camera actually broke irreparably during the film’s final shot (which, for some reason reminded me of Wim Wenders’ The State of Things). The film also takes a subtle shift towards the end as the director’s own interests and tastes change, making the film, at least in part, a documentary about the filmmaker himself.

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