Mysterious Object at Noon (2000)

Dokfa nai meuman (aka Mysterious Object at Noon) is a hybrid of a film that combines experimental storytelling techniques with verité documentary film style. The film is made with a leisurely grace so delicate and rare that I can do little more than marvel at filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s ability to make simplicity appear miraculous and the speculative look measured. As a filmmaker he shows both great confidence and avid curiosity in his decision to turn over his film’s story to random strangers. The ever unraveling narrative told in an exquisite corpse style recedes into the background. What gets foregrounded is the psychology behind each contribution to the story. I care more about why a person chooses to take the story in one direction or another. A person’s inner desires, their hopes and their dreams, are revealed through the strange, often supernatural twists and turns that occur in the life of a handicapped boy and his tutor. Freed from the concern of where the narrative may travel, I am released to venture along with Apichatpong as he documents the Thai countryside in an open, observational style. These verité glimpses of rural environments and the folks who inhabit them weave themselves in and out of the staged shots that depict the actions of the story being told. Just as each new line to the story hints towards a larger story untold, each encounter with a new storyteller provides a captivating glimpse into a mysterious life, briefly visited and passed on.

With so much of mainstream filmmaking relying not only on narrative, but on narrative that keeps people on the edge of their seats with quirky twists, designed to show off the screenwriter and the director’s intelligence (e.g. M. Night Shyamalan) it is refreshing to find a film like Mysterious Object at Noon. It is both far more daring and magical than anything I can recall seeing as of late. It is also done with such simple, but well crafted technical skills that it does not overpower you with it’s grace, but rather it inspires you.

I’ll be thinking about this one for days.

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