“Syndromes and a Century… is one of the most beautiful and evocative films I’ve seen at the 31st Toronto International Film Festival.” Josef Braun, Vue Weekly, 2006
“The weird-and-wonderful vote goes to the cult Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. His new film, Syndromes and a Century, is the story of shy love in a provincial hospital in Thailand. Or is it?" Peter Bradshaw, Guardian UK
"It is possible to feel, watching his earlier movies “Blissfully Yours” or “Tropical Malady,” that you just don’t get, on a conscious, cerebral level, what Mr. Weerasethakul is trying to do. Yet at the same time you find yourself moved, even enchanted, by the beautiful, oblique stories unfolding before your eyes." A. O. Scott, The New York Times
“teeters just on the edge of abstraction, especially given the helmer's fondness for holding for long, beautifully composed takes that drink in sun-dappled landscapes, corridors and statues…casts a witchy kind of spell with its deep-breath pacing and undertow of unspecified malaise." Leslie Felperin, Variety


35mm, Colour, Dolby SRD, 105 minutes,Thailand/ Austria/ France, 2006

Produced, Written and Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cinematographer: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Production Designer: Akekarat Homlaor
1st Assistant Director: Suchada Sirithanawuddhi
2nd Assistant Director: Sompot Chidgasornpongse
3rd Assistant Director: Karnatip Petcharoen
Production Manager: Saranya Ruangnantakan
Prop Master: Nitipong Thinthupthai
Wardrobe: Virasinee Tipkomol, Askorn Sirikul
Sound Recording: Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr
Boom: Narathip Tungkaseranee
Continuity/Location Manager: Manita Niyomprasit
Still Photographer: Chayaporn Maneesutham
Post-Production Supervisor/Editor: Lee Chatametikool
Sound Design: Koichi Shimizu, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr
Songs: Kantee Anantagant
Accounts Administrator: Parichat Pu-aree
Financing Agency: Backup Films: Olivier Aknin, David Atlan-Jackson, Jean-Baptiste Babin, Joël Thibout
Executive Producers: Keith Griffiths, Simon Field (Illuminations Films for New Crowned Hope)
Co-Producers: Pantham Thongsang (Tifa Co Ltd), Charles de Meaux (Anna Sanders Films)

New Crowned Hope
in association with
Fortissimo Films and Backup Films
in co-production with
Anna Sanders Films and Tifa
presents a
a Kick the Machine Films production

with the participation of the Fonds Sud Cinéma,
Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, CNC,
Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (France)

This film is part of the
New Crowned Hope Festival
Produced by Wiener Festwochen
Vienna Mozart Year 2006
Principal Sponsors: Telekom Austria, JCDecaux

Premiered at the 63rd Venice Film Festival, August 30 - September 9, 2006

International Sales: Fortissimo Films

Stacks Image 645

SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY is a film in two parts which sometimes echo each other. The two central characters are inspired by the film-maker’s parents, in the years before they became lovers. The first part focuses on a woman doctor, and is set in a space reminiscent of the world in which the film-maker was born and raised. The second part focuses on a male doctor, and is set in a more contemporary space much like the world the film-maker lives in.


In a small country hospital, Dr Toey interviews Nohng, an army-trained doctor who is about to start working in the hospital. Waiting nearby is Toa, who is shyly, hopelessly, trying to court Toey.

Toey’s daily routine in the hospital keeps her quite busy. An old monk who comes to her with aching joints tries to cajole her into providing a range of prescription medicines for his temple and the local community. She tries to recover an overdue debt. And she finds herself thinking back to her encounters with the orchid expert Noom. He coveted a rare wild tree orchid in the hospital grounds and took it to his botanical farm. There Toey met a middle-aged woman named Jenjira, and they talked about the history of the farm – and about love.

In the hospital’s dental surgery, Dr Ple develops an unexplained attraction to a young monk, Sakda, who once wanted to be a DJ. At night, dentist and patient talk about their past lives – and about love.

In a modern, urban hospital, Dr Toey is interviewing Nohng, an army-trained doctor who is about to start working in the hospital. Waiting nearby is Toa, who is shyly, hopelessly, trying to court Toey. She remains unreceptive.

Left to his own devices by his supervisor Toey, Dr Nohng visits an old friend in the physical therapy ward and is taken to a basement department where he meets two women doctors: Nant, who sells T-shirts for the Red Cross, and Wan, who sometimes appears on TV and has a taste for strong liquor. Wan tries to practice chakra healing on Off, a disturbed young man who has suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

As the day draws to a close, Nohng meets his girlfriend Joy, who suggests that he should move to a hospital in a new development area, due to open next year.

"Apichatpong’s sensuous, impressionistic approach draws out the enervating and tranquilising effects of bureaucracy, invites sympathy and humility for all (from a singing dentist to a senior doctor with an innovative hiding place for hooch), and makes an open secret of the filmmaking process itself. To watch it is to feel the fuzzing of the boundaries between memory, happiness and cinema." Ben Walters, Time Out, London
"Apichatpong Weerasethakul's distinctively casual cine-nigmas are anything but predictable—except, perhaps, in their unaccountable happiness." J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

Best Film Award, 9th Deauville Asian Film Festival, France, 2007
Best Editor Award, Asian Film Award, Hong Kong, 2007 (for Lee Chatametikool)
Special Mention, Fribourg International Film Festival, Switzerland, 2007
Honourable Mention, Adelaide Film Festival, Australia, 2007
Syndromes and a Century was voted the best film of the decade from a poll conducted with international film scholars by
Cinematheque Ontario, Canada, 2009

From an interview with Apichatpong Weerasethakul

The film’s English title is rather allusive. ‘Syndromes’ suggests a concern with human behavior, while ‘a Century’ suggests a concern with time. Is that how you saw it yourself?

Yes, this is the third film in which I’ve used the structure to explore dualities, and I think it will be the last. The word ‘Syndromes’ could apply equally to
Blissfully Yours or Tropical Malady: it does refer to human behavior, such as the way we fall in love. I don’t intend the word to have negative connotations; if falling in love is a kind of sickness, it’s one for which we all show symptoms. ‘Century’ for me conveys the sense of moving forward. A century is more or less the same as a lifetime. I’m interested in the ways things change over time, and in the ways they don’t change. It seems to me that human affairs remain fairly constant.

Blissfully Yours was, for me, a film about cinema and the way I see it. Tropical Malady is more directly personal: it’s about me. And this film is about my parents. I feel that I’m achieving some kind of closure with this film, and the word ‘Century’ somehow chimes with that.

Here the main duality is female/male …

Yes, the first half is for my mother and the second for my father. The occasional repetitions reflect my belief in reincarnation: people
do repeat things. I probably started out with larger dualities in mind – such as day/night, masculine/feminine – but the contrasts aren’t so stark in the finished film. It’s just my mother and father.

The first half has a more ‘period’ feel than the second, but you haven’t really tried to recreate the environment in which you grew up. You didn’t want period detail?

The town where I grew up is Khon Kaen (it’s in the north-east of Thailand, near Laos); it’s where my father died, and my mother still lives there. I went back there to look for locations, but the landscapes and hospital buildings that I remember simply don’t exist any more. So even if I’d wanted to recreate the past, it would not have been possible. We shot the film in various places that evoked my childhood memories, but they’re basically contemporary. The first half of the film, centered on my mother, is
less contemporary than the second, but that’s because places in Thailand do look more old-fashioned when you leave Bangkok.

Memory is the central impulse in your film-making?

It may well be the only impulse! Everything is stored in our memory, and it’s in the nature of film to preserve things … But I’ve never set out to recreate my memories exactly. The mind doesn’t work like a camera. The pleasure for me is not in remembering exactly but in recapturing the
feeling of the memory – and in blending that with the present. That’s been especially true in this film. In Tropical Malady I was following a full script and trying to get things ‘right’. But this film is not really about me, and so (thanks to the generosity of my producers, who never objected) I had the freedom to build it bit by bit, day by day. We shot the first half first, then took a break and rough-cut the footage before shooting the second half. That helped very much to shape the rhythms in the second half, some of the dialogue and so on. We changed a lot in the second half in response to places we found while scouting for locations and little things that happened during the shoot. For example, the room full of prosthetic limbs was something we came across by chance, while scouting many hospitals. And the idea that the woman doctor would hide liquor in one of the prosthetic limbs was spontaneous, too. It came into the film at most a few days before we shot it.

So how many of the incidents and details in the film are based on memories and how many on present-day accidents of discovery?

It’s impossible to say exactly. Take the interview scene which opens both halves of the film. The decision to use psychological-test questions in the interview came from the actress we cast: she may work in a toll-booth, but she has a Master’s degree in Psychology. The idea emerged in the workshops we did before shooting. But the question about what “DDT” stands for comes directly from something my father told me. It was a question he was asked by a teacher, and the answer in the film is the one he gave.

The behavior of the Buddhist monks reflects exactly what I remember seeing in my father’s clinic. Monks are not supposed to do things like play guitar, but such things do happen. I have a childhood memory of seeing monks in my hometown, walking near their temple, and thinking that they didn’t look like monks at all. And Sakda told me that when he was a monk, he behaved no differently from the way he did normally. The monk he plays in this film is of course a continuation of his role in
Tropical Malady. In my original script, he changed into a tiger at night!

The idea of the singing dentist came from someone I met when I went back to Khon Kaen to receive an award from my old university. One alumnus there was a dentist and he had released an album of songs about dental health. I thought I’d put that in the film, but when the time came to shoot, the guy wasn’t available. So I cast someone else as the dentist. Quite a few of the other characters and incidents in the film also came from chance encounters during the research period: finding a beautiful man or woman and deciding to put them in the film.

What were the workshops you mentioned?

For me, making a film is a welcome excuse to get out of Bangkok. In this case, we took the main actors to Hua Hin to get them comfortable with each other. We just talked together and they did some on-camera interviews on video. Nobody except Sakda had ever really acted before, and so Sakda became a kind of acting coach to the others.

What does the tree orchid mean to you?

It’s a beautiful parasite, and a symbol of fertility. Its seeds are blown by the wind and it attaches itself to the host it lands on. It’s random and mysterious, like the film itself. As I was growing up, my mother had a huge garden of orchids. And she shot home movies of the family, so maybe there’s more than one association there for me.

And the sun imagery?

The Thai title means “Light of the Century”. The first half of the film is a kind of portrait of the sun, or an account of the way we depend on the sun for our survival. The second half of the film is dominated by artificial light. But the
chakra healing in the second half is also all about the sun: it’s a way of channeling the sun’s power into the body.

Finally, what are the bronze sculptures seen in the second half of the film?

They are important figures in the development of modern Thai medicine. Including the sculptures in the film was a way of paying respect to them. In one sense, the film is a tribute to those who passed on this century to us.

-- from an interview by Tony Rayns (Bangkok, July 2006)

  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag
  • Image ALT tag