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Syndromes and a Century (Sang sattawat) (2007)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 37 | Rotten: 5

Despite having little in the way of narrative, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes is a poignant and mesmerizing memoir.

93

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 15
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 1

Despite having little in the way of narrative, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes is a poignant and mesmerizing memoir.

audience

77

liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 23,527

My Rating

Movie Info

Set 40 years ago in a small town's hospital, juxtaposed with a similar hospital in the present day. It is a fictional recollection of the love and work of the filmmaker's parents before they finally became lovers, exploring both memories and everyday lives in two eras where a painfully shy young man is courting Dr. Aroon (who is drawn instead to an orchid expert), and a young monk has an unexplained attraction to a dentist.

Jan 15, 2008

Strand Releasing

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All Critics (44) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (5) | DVD (4)

His fifth feature, Syndromes and a Century, might be [the director's] most purely intoxicating.

September 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There's nothing here that resembles narrative urgency, but this is a quiet masterpiece, delicate and full of wonder.

May 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The latest daydreamy film from this Thai auteur of languor is fragrant with tender love and sly humor.

May 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's absolutely mesmerizing.

April 24, 2007
Newsweek
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Its rhymes and echoes make its folds endlessly fascinating.

April 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You have to abandon any preconceived notions about movies and allow your mind to be seduced by the mystifying, occasionally humorous world of a one-of-a-kind filmmaker. You might even find yourself becoming a fan.

April 20, 2007 Full Review Source: New York Post
New York Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The pic has a Buddhist aura surrounding it, leaving a warm and happy feeling with the viewer.

February 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A quieter, shorter but scarcely less idiosyncratic specimen of Rorschach cinema than Inland Empire.

December 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Stylus Magazine

As Ken Tynan said of Waiting for Godot, nothing happens, twice.

September 29, 2007 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Don't watch it for plot, or character development; revel instead in its evocation of warm, wistful moods, its sly sense of humour and its fierce commitment to creating a mystical cinema far from the orthodoxies of both independent and mainstream cinema.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Don't think of it as film. Think of it as a series of paintings that talk to each other, raptly and quietly.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Profoundly mysterious, erotic, funny, gentle, playful, utterly distinctive, it is the work of the Thai director and installation-artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who now has a claim to be approaching the league of Kiarostami and Haneke.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

This curio sometimes bemuses, but it's utterly fresh and alive.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

This portrait of life is all about the yin and the yang, so it follows that for everyone who finds it dull there are those who will be captivated.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: BBC.com

Knowingly enigmatic, but more accessible than the director's previous works.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

As delicate, complex and strange as any rare orchid, and as unlikely to appeal to mainstream tastes, Syndromes And A Century more than delivers on the enigma promised by its bifurcated title.

September 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

This gentle film with surprising dollops of humanistic humor floats by like a dream upon which we are eavesdropping.

August 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Weerasethakul has become less and less dependent on narrative, relying instead on emotional impressions and rhythms (and even a few deadpan laughs).

July 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

[The director's] quiet sense of humor and colorful characters are endearing but the pleasures are less in the abstract story than the flow of his moods and the shades of his atmospheres.

July 19, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If you allow the film to wash over you, it can be appreciated as an essay on the power of memory.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Murphy's Movie Reviews
Murphy's Movie Reviews

Watching Syndromes and Century is like reading a Samuel Beckett novel, only it's slow, confusing, and bleak. Okay, so it's like reading a Samuel Beckett novel.

July 13, 2007 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

The moment-to-moment textures of Syndromes and a Century are so densely real in their minimalism that they make you suspend all interpretation and simply exist in the present.

July 3, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

This one appears to simply be scenes set in a rural Thai hospital that were strung together at random.

May 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

The fragmented images and dialogue have the feel of a nostalgic dream - one you will either groove to or sleep through.

May 18, 2007
Salt Lake Tribune

Audience Reviews for Syndromes and a Century (Sang sattawat)

[size=3]If you pine for the halcyon days of Jean-Luc Godard and Federico Fellini, or if you love contemporary filmmakers such as Terrence Malick and David Cronenberg, then you're ready for the filmmaker with the un-pronounceable name: [b]Apichatpong Weerasethakul[/b] (pictured here). (I've read that he's known to friends as Joe. I'll call him AW.)[/size]

[size=3][img]http://www.curtasmetragens.pt/festival/files/imagens_artigos_imagem_456_6162.gif[/img][/size]

[size=3]I've been hearing about AW for several years and finally got to see one of his films: the brand-new Syndromes and a Century, which is playing in one theater in NYC and showing only once a day. But I count my blessings. At least it's being shown here.[/size]

[size=3]One could interpret the film in a million different ways, but I read it primarily as a rumination on the fledgling new century that our generation is bringing to life, with the focus being on some of its dominant tendencies, or syndromes. [/size][size=3]Two dominant themes are health and bisexuality.[/size]

[size=3]The film takes place in a hospital. We meet some of the doctors and patients (one doctor is shown below), but we don't get to know anyone very well. The film most definitely is not a character study. These people are not meant to seem like real people. They walk around more slowly than real people would and they talk in unusual ways. For example, they'll be talking pretty normally and then something very unusual will happen. They'll pause and then go back to talking as if nothing happened.[/size]

[img]http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/ciff/syndromes.jpg[/img]

[size=3]Yet to my surprise, it works. The kind of pauses and breaks with reality that AW uses serve to make a certain issue or feeling shine brighter. There's one scene where a young Buddhist monk is on a dentist's chair being examined. The doctor and patient chat briefly and softly and seem to grow very fond of each other. The dentist pauses and then starts singing a little song to the patient. And the song goes on for pretty long. We just sit back and watch this man sing to this boy (he seems to be about 19) softly and tenderly for about two minutes. It's one of sweetest, most tender sequences I've ever seen in the movies. Obviously this wouldn't happen in real life.[/size]

[size=3]The interlude didn't further the plot, what there is of one. Nor did it reveal anything specific about the characters. It seemed to me that it was intended to radiate feeling more than anything else. AW wanted us to see humans being tender with one another, especially ones who are complete strangers, and just bask in the feeling of that.[/size]
[size=3]I don't think it was a coincidence that the two characters were male, however. This is just one of several instances where the idea of male-to-male kindness and love is either mentioned or shown. And I don't think it was coincidental that the younger man was handsome, or that the actor was barefoot in the scene. I suspect that AW wanted to give the scene a hint of eroticism to convey the bisexual feeling that I felt permeating the film.[/size]

[size=3]Syndromes and a Century, happily, doesn't go in a wildly abstract direction. While the people do things that are unusual, they stay within the bounds of normality, so everyone remains recognizably human. There are only a couple breaks with time and space, where characters seem to change places. [/size]

[size=3]I sense that AW wanted to highlight philosophical themes, but that he finds those ideas meaningful only insofar as they are connected to real people and the kinds of things they go through. AW doesn't strike me as a highly abstract thinker. He seems like he keeps his eyes open to the people around him, meditating on the kinds of things he sees them struggling with and enjoying. In that way, this film is deeply human and it radiates a feeling of caring about people, not caring about ideas for ideas' sake or for the sake of looking smart and well-read.[/size]
[size=3]At the end of the film, there's an outro that one more time reflects on the theme of health. We see a large group of people all doing aerobics in a park on a beautiful, sunny day. People of all ages are doing it together to the beat of infectious pop music. It is an adorable celebration of life and an image that is so emblematic of our age. And then the film quietly fades.[/size]

[size=3]The only weakness I felt in the film is that it's a bit slight. I liked seeing AW eliciting themes obliquely, and his cinematography and overall mise-en-scene is absolutely exquisite. But I didn't see him saying truly penetrating things about our time or about life. I suspect that this is one of his more delightful, but more minor films. I'll be eager to see more of his films to compare them.[/size]
May 6, 2007
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

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