• 07 Aug - 13 Aug, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Memoria is set in Colombia, and Tilda Swinton plays Jessica, an expatriate Englishwoman who lives in Medellín running a market-gardening business selling flowers; she is in Bogotá visiting her sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) and her husband, Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho), because Karen is ill in hospital with a mysterious respiratory complaint. One night, Jessica is awoken from a sleep by a strange bang or sonic boom. What is going on? There is no building work nearby. And apparently only Jessica can hear this sound.

She goes out for dinner at a restaurant with Karen and Juan, and she hears the sound again, as clear as gunshots, but realises that no one else is aware of them, so she just has to keep talking. It is one of the most disturbing scenes we have seen recently in a movie. The sounds appear to be presentiments or symptoms of some profound shift in the world, and she has been singled out as the only person aware of them – a strange annunciation. Can this perhaps have something to do with the ancient bones that have been dug up in the city? Or is that Jessica is entering some metempsychotic breakdown?

She visits the student of a friend in a recording studio: Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego) and asks him if he can recreate the noise digitally, which he does and then plays her the music that he is working on. They seem to be on the verge of some kind of romantic relationship, when she arrives at the studio to be told by baffled engineers that no such person of that name has ever worked there. But later she is to encounter an older man, also called Hernán (Elkin Diaz) who may be his reincarnated spirit and who, like Funes the Memorious in the Borges story, says he has never left his village because he remembers everything that has ever happened to him and cannot risk being overwhelmed. As she talks to Hernán, recovered memories arise into her consciousness, as if tuning into a long-lost radio frequency. But are they her memories?

Memoria is an out-of-body experience that you have to build up to, step by step. It’s a beautiful and mysterious movie, slow cinema that decelerates your heartbeat.