chapter  9
Immanent comparisons and posthuman perception in the filmic sensorium of Apichatpong Weerasethakul
ByCarlo Bonura
Pages 20

Regimes of comparison within the social sciences and humanities typically presume a precise relationship between the comparativist and the objects of comparison. The task of comparison is to establish identities and differences across disparate objects. Objects are entirely passive in this process and the genius of comparison always comes from the comparativist. This chapter examines the films of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul to raise the possibility of immanent comparisons in the world, ones in which the objects are active and always being brought together rather than discretely separated. The spectral nature of Apichatpong’s films appears across instances of sudden darkness, phosphorescence, apparition, reincarnation, as well as in the dense jungle soundscapes, dead bodies, and nightly creatures that populate their scenes. Each film engages with an always-shifting series of dichotomies: urban – rural, secular – spiritual, clarity (lightness) – obscurity (darkness), habitation – jungle movements, modern – traditional. None of these polarities, however, are ever clearly defined. The effect is that viewers are continuously faced with the indeterminacy of the categories of the worldly and the inhuman. Apichatpong’s cinematic sensibility leads audiences to the complex attachment of a just beyond (in the jungle, at the end of a cave, at the edge of a valley, along a river) that cannot be associated with the nation-state and fails to reference broader identitarian forms. The spirituality of Apichatpong’s films is too restless to serve (or be relevant to) present-day public religiosity and the competing political aims of this devotion/loyalty. Instead, the immanent comparisons found within his films are directed elsewhere, away from the familiar places and ontopologies that provide the foundations for regimes of comparison.