I love how Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul tells stories. He likes to reset his narrative halfway through in order to show us a mirror story that shares characters, dialogue and scenes with the one that preceded it. When I first saw this structure utilized in Syndromes and a Century I was gobsmacked. It was like somebody blew open my preconceived notions of what narrative storytelling could do and what it could be.
As with Syndromes, both halves of Tropical Malady would be fascinating in isolation, but when paired together they become bewitching and extraordinary. Side A of Malady appears to be a straight forward love story between two men in Thailand. There are enough caverns and ellipses mind you to leave certain things out in the fog. Then the film switches gears into it’s second half and becomes an existential adventure story as a solider is pursued by a tiger shaman in the rainforest. How these two tales rhyme and compliment each other, you will have to see for yourself. Enchantment and mystery lie at the heart of Tropical Malady and it’s unraveling is a real pleasure.
Like all of Joe’s films, Tropical Malady sits with you long after you’ve first experienced it. Even now I find myself revisiting that mystical rainforest in my mind before I go to sleep or even at abrupt moments in the day. There’s a deepness to these films that becomes more vivid as time goes on. The imagery and the poetry is seriously startling. They really do cast a spell on you. Weerasethakul is a genuine wizard.