© Kick the Machine Films, Burning, Anna Sanders Films, Match Factory Productions, ZDF/Arte and Piano, 2021.




» I am grateful to have witnessed Tilda and Jeanne searching for Jessica and Agnes in their own ways. Tilda was open to her transformation, like water, while Jeanne follows her feeling in each rehearsal and each take. «

You’ve often mentioned your connection to specific settings or places in describing your films. Did any similar sense of geographical-spiritual connection lead you to set and shoot Memoria in Colombia and Latin America specifically? What inspired you about Colombia’s landscapes, myths and stories, and memories?

During the 70s, I grew up reading novels about hunters looking for the treasures of lost civilisations. They influenced some of my past films like Tropical Malady or even Uncle Boonmee. The Thai authors were, in fact, inspired by the tales from the West, those that romanticised the Amazonian discovery of the colonial era. They copied and adopted the settings and pretended the stories took place in Thailand. I am still drawn to such a world, which may just exist in books. In the past ten years I have visited Argentina, Brazil, Peru and then Colombia, where I spent the most time. These travels triggered off that old fascination and Memoria started to take shape. But to this day I still haven’t visited the actual Amazon, because I fell in love with the architecture in the cities. I chose two cities – Bogotá and Pijao as the film’s setting.

I just kept visiting Pijao, maybe because it is small and vulnerable, unlike Bogotá – or is it Bogotá’s past? It is located 300 km away from Bogotá, with its first settlers being those Liberales (Liberal Party) fleeing the violence from the Conservadores (Conservative Party). An hour from Pijao is a tunnel construction called La Linea which bores through a part of the mountains, known here as El Masiso Colombiana. When it finishes, it will be the second longest tunnel in Latin America. However, for years the construction has been plagued with geological and engineering challenges. The project feels like an unachievable dream. They dynamited and drilled into the mountains which resonates with me in connection with the ‘bang’ that Jessica hears and the idea of trying to dig into one’s head for some concealed memories.

Could you say something about the preparation and research that was involved in what was effectively a new country for you to make a film in?

When we talk about Colombia, the political memory is obvious. However, I didn’t feel able to justify leaning in that direction as I have no roots there. I just listened to stories from different people – psychologists, archaeologists, engineers, activists, junk collectors, and so on. Most of all I wanted to get the right ‘pulse’ to be able to move comfortably within my narrative. I see the film as a tribute to a country from the perspective of an outsider. Maybe one can sense a political rumble underneath the surface, though.

What role did Tilda (and to a lesser extent, your casting of Jeanne Balibar) play in shaping the project, the script, the characters.

I wrote this film with Tilda and Jeanne in mind. It came from the urge to work together that I have had -we have had – for a long time. To make life more challenging I figured the location should be foreign to us. So why not Latin America? After all, it’s a film about trying to synchronise, to the land, to others, and to ones’ selves. I am grateful to have witnessed Tilda and Jeanne searching for Jessica and Agnes in their own ways. Tilda was open to her transformation, like water, while Jeanne follows her feeling in each rehearsal and each take. There are Zen-like elements in both approaches that really inspired and surprised me. Jeanne’s interpretation, for example, had made Agnes funny and glamorous – yet mysterious. Many times, I was thinking, ‘I don’t get Agnes…but that’s fine!’

This is your first feature with fully ‘professional’ actors, particularly in the lead roles of Jessica, Agnes and Hernan, who are obviously much more familiar with working on more conventional features and perhaps with different approaches to acting. Did you find their approaches to acting, character and physical performance very different from your (largely) ‘non-professional’ cast in your Thai features?

I don’t differentiate between professionals and amateurs. I am only concerned about the amount of time the actors can provide for me, for the film. For this film we had quite some time for rehearsal and fine-tuning. I employed the same process I always do – using script reading and improvisation to find the comfortable balance between the actors and myself.
The actors were very cool with my approach, which is not to dig deep into the characters’ backgrounds, motivation, psychological analysis. So, from the script, I only have a vague sense of the film. Often, I was moved almost to tears when I saw the film ‘brought into being’ by them.
Alongside Tilda and Jeanne, I was lucky to have the perfect cast – Daniel Giménez from Mexico, who plays Jessica’s brother-in-law – honestly I wanted his presence and his incredible, bassy voice. I pictured only a few actors who could ‘bless’ the film’s early scenes. I also loved working with Juan Pablo who plays Bogotá’s Hernan. To me, he’s a mirror that reflects Jessica’s dreams and desires, or even her past. Juan Pablo is also like water which makes a great match to Elkin who plays Pijao’s Hernan. I view Elkin as a rock, a monk that witnesses and absorbs experiences.
With all the actors, I was drawn to their inner melancholy the same way as I was attracted to that of my Thai actors. The fact that, in case of Tilda and Jeanne, we were working in this foreign country makes this sense of melancholy stronger as we inevitably made comparisons with home. I found myself trying to change the rhythm of the actors towards the rhythm of Thailand that is so familiar to me. In the end, I think the film is a hybrid animal that doesn’t belong anywhere.

Could you say more about why you wanted to work with Tilda in particular and how that collaboration manifested itself in the script and shooting?

Apart from this inner melancholy, as a friend, I admire Tilda’s fierce spirit, elegance, and humour. I sent her a script and she was so gentle with it. With comments that were not about changing the film but about how she felt about Jessica. We didn’t discuss much beforehand because we knew that the sculpting process takes place during the rehearsal and the production. I gradually understood what she meant by saying she’s not an actor but a crew member or a collaborator. Her being during each take is organic, concerning her ‘play’ not only with the other cast members but also with the camera, the lights, the set. In complex shots she would watch the replay and together with the team, assess them. Her contribution is about creating an illusion from a particular angle and a perceived continuity. It’s not theatre. I think the apparent adjustment for me in terms of performance is the speed. I wanted her to move more slowly than her usual self. I would say, “…as if you are walking underwater”.’ So ‘underwater’ became our keyword.

The best thing is that she didn’t stay in character after the ‘cut’. Her cheery personality emerges right away and I was always happy to meet her again. I remember one long take, a 15-minute shot which was so emotional that after the cut some of the crew members were in tears. But Tilda had already gone outside to take pictures of some newborn piglets.

The ‘bang’ that Jessica / Tilda experiences was, you’ve written, also something that was important to the birth of this project.

Yes, that is the birth of this project, as if it were the big bang of the universe. It starts from when I used to hear a loud noise at dawn, for several months. It was internal and occurred when I was both at home and abroad. This symptom – recognized as Exploding Head Syndrome – is inseparable from my exposure to Colombia. It has formed the basis of the character of Jessica, whose audio experiences guide her journey. The name Jessica is an hommage to one of my favourite films, Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked With a Zombie. In that film, Jessica Holland is the comatose wife of a sugar plantation owner irresistibly drawn by the sound of the voodoo drums at night.

Through the ‘bang’, Memoria, like some of your previous works, also delves into experiences and mysteries of sleeping and dreaming, interactions between different levels of sensory experience and consciousness. But in Memoria, there’s also the connection to sound itself, to what reverberates inside our heads. What other themes or ideas does the ‘bang’’connect to for you?

Reflectively, the ‘bang’ in this film can be from many sources – those natural disasters or man-made ones. The fireworks, gunshots, or explosions that are associated with national traumas. I am also interested in the physical aspect of sound – the vibrations, the waves. How they relate to the idea of memory and its manifestation. I imagine the Colombian mountains, with their creases and creeks as being like the folds of the brain, or the curves of sound waves, as an expression of people’s remembrances through centuries. Equally important is the silence which accentuates the void or creates anticipation. Hidden in the sound design was also the first recorded audio from the late 19th Century. So, there are many layers at play.

This is your first feature film to be shot outside Thailand. Could you say something about the experience of the shoot in Colombia itself. Were there major differences from shooting in Thailand?

What started out as a challenge turned out to be very comfortable. I felt at ease in Colombia. I had my trusted assistant (Sompot) and DoP (Sayombhu) with whom I faced similar situations to those we experienced at home. As I like natural light and settings, the issue was the weather. In Bogota you can have sunshine, rain, cold, heat, wind in the same day. I tried to use it to advantage by accentuating this constant change. I love it because you have to be very active on the set.

Your feature films have been made with what seems like regular collective of collaborators. Could you say something about the importance of having these collaborators, Sayombhu and Sompot, with you in Colombia? And how did you find working with new creative partners on art design, sound etc? Was that a stimulating change?

On set, Sompot and Sayombhu were my anchors. But the Colombian crew were the ones who brought reality into this film. The team taught me the local customs and palette. I often asked, „Is that how people do it here? Isn’t that too exotic?” The answer was mostly “no“. Like in my other films, I toned down the colours and gestures because I have the psychological ‘reality’ of my film in my mind. For example, the speed of some scenes should be 10-15% less than normal. In a short time, our team – assistant directors, costume, production design, language coaches, and so on, synchronized very well. They have the most beautiful spirits. They are also the best dancers in the world.

As for the post-production, Lee, my editor, and Rit, my sound designer, know my preferences and they brought to Memoria their expertise from working with me so often on other films. Lee mentioned that this one was quite a challenge. Once we changed little things in the edit, the whole film changed dramatically. We supposed it would be the same as in other films of mine but the magnitude of the effect on the chain of sequences and their interlocking quality was immense.

Besides being your first film shot outside of Thailand, the dialogue is mostly spoken in Spanish and English. Did you find any expected or unexpected new benefits or advantages to working on a film in a different language?

Spanish was like a special effect to me that I left to the experts. There’s a complexity in how to set a tone – a level of Spanish fluency – for Jessica. Tilda had worked miracles with her coach Juanita that even now I have no idea of their method. Elkin also had his coach, Manolo, to consult about his delivery as some of his dialogues were, as I have written them, intentionally unnatural. For me I just treat Spanish as sound and as music.

The film also like certain past works evokes connection between its time and past times, both for the characters and through the lens of archaeology, or the human intervention into the ancient mountain and into nature. How would you describe the relationship between past and present as specifically relating to this film?

To me, Memoria presents the entanglement of memories, personal and collective. Jessica wakes up as an empty shell and absorbs memories of people and places. She’s the spirit of nothingness. She’s an amplifier (or as Hernan puts it, an antenna). The skull with a hole is to be filled or to be emptied out. We don’t know. This sign of humanity exists deep in the mountains, which in themselves are holding layers of memories. Jessica walks a lot, which to me is an elegant gesture, to trace and collect these layers. Then she sits down by the stream and listens. Finally she disappears like the radio waves that disperse in the evening air.

© Kick the Machine Films, Burning, Anna Sanders Films, Match Factory Productions, ZDF/Arte and Piano, 2021.


2021  Memoria
2015  Cemetery of Splendour
2012  Mekong Hotel
2010  Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
2006  Syndromes and a Century
2004  Tropical Malady
2003  The Adventure of Iron Pussy
2002  Blissfully Yours
2000  Mysterious Object at Noon


2021  A Minor History
2018  Constellations
2016   Invisibility
2013   Dilbar
2012   The Importance of Telepathy
2009  The Primitive Project
2007  Unknown Forces
2007  Emerald/ Morakot
2006  FAITH


2015  Fever Room




Apichatpong Weerasethakul is recognised as one of the most original voices in contemporary cinema. His previous seven feature films, short films, installations and his recent live performance have won him widespread international recognition and numerous awards, including the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2010 with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. His Tropical Malady won the Cannes Competition Jury Prize in 2004 and Blissfully Yours won the Cannes Un Certain Regard Award in 2002. Syndromes and a Century (2006) was recognised as one of the best films of the last decade in several 2010 polls. Mysterious Object at Noon (2000), his first feature, has been restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.

Born in Bangkok, Apichatpong grew up in Khon Kaen in north-eastern Thailand. He began making films and video shorts in 1994 and completed his first feature in 2000. He has also mounted exhibitions and installations in many countries since 1998 and is now recognised as a major international visual artist. His art prizes include the Sharjah Biennial Prize (2013) the prestigious Yanghyun Art Prize (2014) in South Korea and the Artes Mundi Award (2019). Lyrical and often fascinatingly mysterious, his film works are non-linear, dealing with memory and in subtle ways invoking personal politics and social issues. Working independently of the Thai commercial film industry, he devotes himself to promoting experimental and independent filmmaking through his company Kick the Machine Films, founded in 1999, which also produces all his films. His installations have included the multi-screen project Primitive (2009), acquired for major museum collections (including Tate Modern and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris), a major installation for the 2012 Kassel Documenta and most recently the film installations Fireworks (Archive) (2014), Invisibility (2016), Constellations (2018) and A Minor History (2021).

In September 2015, the Asian Arts Theatre, based in Gwangju, South Korea, commissioned his first live performance work Fever Room designed to compliment their presentation of Cemetery of Splendour. Since then Fever Room has been successfully presented in Brussels, Berlin, Yokohama, Singapore, Taipei and other international cities and at the Festival d’Automne in France. Memoria is his first feature to be shot outside Thailand and with an international cast.



© Kick the Machine Films, Burning, Anna Sanders Films, Match Factory Productions, ZDF/Arte and Piano, 2021.