Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand's leading experimental filmmaker and international man of mystery, isn't exactly a master of suspense. Still, the 37-year-old director's distinctively casual cine-nigmas are anything but predictable. As impervious to an easy read as its title, Syndromes begins on the grounds of a rural hospital where the girlish Dr. Toey is interviewing a young army medic, Dr. Nohng, for a job. Clinics are a favorite Weerasethakul location (his parents were doctors) and this one seems unusually idyllic, with sunlit corridors and group exercises outside on the grass. What is this movie about? Weerasethakul has called Syndromes "an experiment in re-creation of my parents' lives before I was born." Like his previous films, it's a two-part brain tickler. The first part is set in the period of the filmmaker's childhood, the second in the present day. Midway through, Weerasethakul begins the movie again, repeating the first interview with slight differences in tone and camera placement, and this time the hospital is urban. Are these parallel tales an attempt to induce something like 3-D narrative depth? A consideration of repetitive human activity over the course of a lifetime? You might as well ask why the breeze is rustling the leaves.
Jaruchai Iamaram in the hospital.
Syndromes and a Century Runs at SIFF Cinema, Fri., July 20–Thurs., July 26. Not rated. 105 minutes.