The Favorites is a series briefly exploring films I love, to find out what makes them - and me - tick. Syndromes and a Century (2006/Thailand/dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul) appeared at #83 on my original list.
What it is • Two doctors meet, a man and a woman: she is interviewing him for a job at the hospital. They discuss his military history, he mentions he plays basketball, she asks him to hold out his fist (I've never quite been clear on why - to test his nerves?), and she asks him what "DDT" stands for (the best he can do is "Destroy Dirty Things"). This happens twice in the movie, at the beginning and then again halfway through. The first time we tend to stay closer to the woman when the interview ends, the second time we stick mostly with the man. In both cases, we also spend time with other characters in the hospital, and in a few cases scenes are repeated, or rather echoed with slight differences. As each half moves along, however, they grow further and further apart, creating a sense of a fork in the road in which the two paths lead in very, very different directions. Oh, and I've neglected to mention one crucial detail. The hospital of the first half is a rural clinic, surrounded by sun-dappled ferns and characterized by an easygoing, pleasant mood. The hospital of the second half - despite the presence of the same characters - seems to exist in an alternate universe: it is a massive structure with white walls and ceilings, heavily staffed and located in the heart of a city. This clever dual structure provides the skeleton of Syndromes and a Century's structure, but the meat on those bones is composed of individual moments: humorous and poignant character interactions, lingering shots of people and places, near-abstract depictions of afternoon eclipses in the countryside or ominous tubes sucking all the smoke from a basement room. Syndromes and a Century exists primarily to absorb us in a sense of space, or rather two very different spaces.
Why I like it •