Is there a better way to spend your afternoon than sitting around watching other people spend their afternoon?
I think not!
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Blissfully Yours is one of the most thought provoking, enchanting and poignant films made recently. However, you should avoid this film if you: A) lack patience, and B) lack patience. Don’t say I haven’t warned you!
Weerasethakul demonstrates his aptness to integrate his skills as an experimental artist into feature film, something that he and his Thai indie filmmaking colleagues do so well (take I-San Special for example). Blissfully Yours succeeds as a fantastic yet conceptually simple experiment that is primarily expressed through its visual style and filmic structure. Weerasethakul separates the film into two halves: the irritations accompanying life as an illegal immigrant trying to build a life in Thailand, and the simple yet blissful pleasures of having a picnic in the jungle.
The first half of the film draws out irritation. The long stationary takes give the film a sluggish progression that evokes a sense of unexcited contemplation (sort of like riding a lift, or waiting in a doctor’s surgery). This in combination with a voyeuristic camera style makes us feel that we are watching the action in real-time. This type of filmmaking reminds me of how Tsai Ming Liang creates a film, but without the humour of his lovably introverted characters.
The second half of the film elicits calmness. The sounds of the jungle evoke a quiet and still mediation within the viewer. Weerasethakul uses a style that is as slow moving as the characters are lazy … and they are really lazy; long dynamic takes, shots of broad vistas, and an un-contrived sound-scape. At points we are calmly invited into Min’s mind through voice-over, giving us insight into his and Roong’s troubled past, in a way reminiscent of a Wong Kar-Wai film. At other times, characterization is provided through a series of Min’s hand-drawn pictures superimposed on screen, articulating a more detailed past between Min, Roong and Orn.
Weerasethakul experiments with our emotions; building up a sense of irritation, only for those irritations to be slowly dissolved with a picnic in the jungle. Though the second half of the film evokes a sense of calm through its film style, there is also a sense of unease suggested by the characters. It tends not to destroy the moment of bliss, but rather supposes that the characters’ futures aren’t as encouraging as what is perceived at this very moment. This is realised in the closing credits as we find out Min and Roong’s ill-fated future. Weerasethakul singles out their excursion to the jungle by bracketing it with ‘real-life’ dramatics, making the jungle trip an ethereal moment in time for the characters, and even more so for the viewers. It is this ability to capture the moment which makes Blissfully Yours so rich.
Blissfully Yours skilfully layers emotions in contrasting ways that ultimately make you question your understanding of the film; often you find yourself thinking many days after about aspects of the film that you may have missed; strangely enough it is doubtful that any further viewings will make your ideas any more lucid.
Perplexing characters along with equally perplexing filmmaking make Weerasethakul worthy of attention. Ultimately, Blissfully Yours is a film that will not entertain everyone, yet if given the chance it is a valuable film to experience.