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Mundane History

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Mundane History stillWhat do I think about Mundane History?

I left the cinema feeling truly elated, endorphins coursing through my veins.

I sat in the cinema for 75 odd minutes, comatose with boredom.

We watch a live-in nurse, Pun, care for newly paralysed upper-middle class youth, Ake.

Ake is unhappy with his lot, and rotten to his family, though eventually reaches out to Pun.

Pun is just about satisfied with life, and epitomises the kind of recognisably human character with whom I am likely to identify – who has had dreams but rarely chased them, or had the opportunity, and makes do with what is ready to hand.

Nothing happens, except for a handful of immeasurably separated dreamlike collages of objects and settings.

The midpoint scene is a misplaced CGI skit, burrowing into a nebula and watching a giant star going supernova. A death.

The final scene is real life footage of a caesarean section, entirely disconnected from the rest of Mundane History, which leaves one shaken and deeply affected, as though having just seen one’s child born. A birth.

This is a cheat. Suwichakornpong knows that what we define our experiences by, in memory, are the lowest lows, transcendent highs, and the end point. Perhaps that’s the point she is making about life in general. She exploits this, so we leave forgetting the intense banality of most of the film.

I have rarely spent so much time looking at my watch in a cinema. All that stands out in memory are birth and death.

Some things happen, but Suwichakornpong does a good job of making it look like nothing happens. Nothing happens beautifully, and with enough time not only to meditate on the metaphysics beyond the image, but to fall asleep after contemplation gets old.

Mundane History is an excellent example of ‘slow cinema’ – it is excruciatingly dull, but masquerades as an effective film by throwing in a handful of substantial moments (e.g. the importance of water for the sensorially  deprived) and points (i.e. we cannot give up on life). It’s taboo to admit this, but it’s fucking frustrating watching men watch paint dry for an hour and a half.

 
Mundane History, wri./dir. Anocha Suwichakornpong, star. Phakpoom Surapongsanurak, Arkaney Cherkham, Thailand; 2009

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Written by James P. Campbell

19/06/2010 at 01:31

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