Derik Badman's Journal

2021-10-14 08:51

Watched Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life the other day. It is a fabulous movie, both in the sense that I really loved it and in the sense that is like a fable. It falls into a rather long line of movies about the time after death, in this case, people spend a week at a campus facility before moving on. During that time the staff there help them pick their most treasured memory and then recreate it as a film. At the end of the week the dead watch the film and then move on, retaining only that one memory from their life. You can't look too hard at the logic of it, because it is never really explained, though it does seem that the dead can go out and walk amongst the living (there is a montage scene of one of the staff members walking about taking pictures and clearly there are living people going about their lives around here).

The main plot focuses on one of the staff members, a young man who died in the war (WWII of course), never moved on because he couldn't pick a memory, and so works at this place helping other people. He still looks in his 20s but after all the time he's been doing this job the old people dying are of his generation, which creates some interesting moments and then a driver of the resolution of his plot. We also get a little less on a young woman who works with him (and clearly has feelings for him) and seems to be new at the work. We never get a sense of what her life was like or why she did not pass on (Kore-eda wrote a novelization of the film that focuses more on her, though it doesn't appear to be available in English).

A lot of the movie jumps between a variety of the people (of all ages) who died as they examine their lives and pick a memory, then there is a bunch of scenes on the production of their memory films. In a way it becomes another movie about making movies, though in this case much of what we see on the production side is about the recreation of these memory scenes. We never actually see the movies, just the people sitting in their seats looking at the screen (and at the camera) with the projector in the background projecting towards the camera too. It's rather self-reflexive.

It's a melancholy film, beautifully composed, emotional and thoughtful.