Apichatpong Weerasethakul and The Art of Moviemaking

What’s with the title?
The film is inspired by the book, A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives, about an old man, Boonmee, who saw his past lives as a cow, spirit and buffalo. That title sounded to me like an old novel, where you have someone’s fantastic journey; so even though the film is my own take on the different lives of cinema, I wanted to pay respect to Uncle Boonmee.
There are at least five different film styles in the film. Tell us more about your filming technique.
Yes, for me films are like life, and each style of film is a different life. In Uncle Boonmee, the first part is my own style, with animals and everyday life, an introduction to my world. The second style is the dinner scene, it’s like a stage play, and really classical. The third is more documentary-like, outdoors in the farm, while the fourth is the royal costume drama with the princess. And then we go to the jungle, and the camera starts to move, like an adventure film from the past! And finally the last part is in the hotel, a reunion of my actors, and we come back to my own style. So it’s full circle.
Your films often feature people moving away from civilization. What’s nature’s attraction to you?
For me, the forest is the home that we have run away from for so long. I believe that we used to understand the language of the forest, nature, and animals, but now we don’t have that ability anymore. So I always take my characters back home. Especially for Uncle Boonmee—he’s dying, so he’s going home.
Winning the Palme d’Or must have been a validation for you.
I think the reason Uncle Boonmee resonates with critics abroad is its universal themes of death and being alive. We all also share a common cinema history. I’m always fascinated by the ability of the mind and how one can remember so much.
Your films can be quite perplexing for the uninitiated. What do you say to someone who says “I didn’t get your movie.”
I say, “It’s normal,” “See it again,” “So?,” “Try to see it in a theater,” or “OK, I will try harder next time.”
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