“Where are you?”
“I’m not sure…”
There’s a feeling that comes just before one falls asleep or just after one wakes up that combines innocence and confusion. It’s a feeling of not being in control and not knowing where you are. It’s a fleeting feeling, and one of of complete helplessness. It involves not being in control, and for many of us, that idea is terrifying.
So what if a film came along and tried to embody that feeling?
There’s not much to the story of CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR. The film is about a clinic in South Korea where a platoon of soldiers have fallen into a deep and perpetual sleep. As they rest, we watch over them and the people who care for them. One such caregiver sticks out, as we watch her bond with one of the afflicted grow, perhaps fuelled by who they were in a former life.
There is more to the plot of CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR, but it’s of lesser importance. This is the sort of film that is less concerned with what its story is about than how it chooses to tell it. It wants us to be patient for once in an age that is growing increasingly ADD. Taking care of the infirmed and afflicted is very much about patience and ritual, and these are traits that only the most giving of us seem to possess anymore. And yet, if we’re being honest, it’s the sort of nurturing that we want. In a way, that seems to be the films goal…to nurture us in our theatre seats and let our souls mend to the sights of pretty pictures.
That said, this will not be a film for everybody. This is a movie filled with long takes, shots where seemingly nothing seems to happen. It asks that we do things like watch lights change colour for three or four minutes and let our brains wander…so if you’re looking for sensory stimulation, this might not be your bag.
Oddly enough, as I watched CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR, I felt the sleep deprivation that comes hand-in-glove with attending a film festival setting in. My eyelids were heavy, my breathing slow, my chin started to dip…and in a way, I believe that might be the best possible way to experience a film like this. It wants us to see the world it presents as a respite from the chaos and confusion of everyday life, and to that end offer a place that is warm and soul-soothing. It doesn’t want us to solve problems or check boxes, but instead wants us to just “be” and let our minds go to more peaceful places.
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR wants to take the serenity of unconsciousness and put it on the screen, and to that end the film is a success.