The title is derived from William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (Act 3, Scene 1): "To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause..."
The "Hell" scenes were shot on the decrepit, rusted hulk of the Essex class aircraft carrier U.S.S. Oriskany (CV-34). The ship was later sunk to make room for an artificial reef on May 17, 2006. The "Hell" scenes were shot at the Alameda Naval Air Station in an indoor swimming pool surrounded by blue screen so that the visual effects could be later added in. Extras spent two twelve-hour days in the water as ghouls.
When Chris Nielsen is with his dog Katie and comes across Albert Lewis, who is standing in the water, Chris recognizes him in his youth. Albert exclaims, "You last saw me when I was 63 stretched out in a cardiac ward....who wants to be 63 throughout eternity?!" Robin Williams passed away at age 63 in august 11, 2014.
One of a few films shot on Fuji Velvia (RVM) film stock. Velvia is a type of film used most frequently for still photography of landscapes and other subjects because of its very high color saturation. It is only rarely employed for cinematography, usually when special effects are required.
Dawn Soler, the musical supervisor for the film has said in an interview that W. Axl Rose intended to have the unreleased Guns N' Roses song "This I Love" in this movie but for some reason the director didn't use the song.
The original score was composed by Ennio Morricone. However, Morricone's score was rejected after some initial screen tests. No explanation for the rejection has ever been given by the director or producers.
In the book by Richard Matheson, Chris Nielsen has four children. In the movie, he has two who died four years before him. In the book, Albert Lewis is his cousin who was sickly when they were young, and died at an early age. In the movie, Albert Lewis is Chris Nielsen's doctor who died before him.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the movie, the different places from Afterlife are created by the thoughts of main characters: Chris Nielsen imagines his house and landscape from Annie's pictures; the great stairway and golden city are taken from Marie's toys in her room; at Hell's entrance, there appears sunken aircraft carriers taken from Ian's memories when he modeled aircrafts; Annie's hell is shown like a gray ground full of faces, taken from a conversation between Chris and her; and finally, Annie's house in hell is a replicate from her house when all of them were alive.
The main colors appear at different times, being the dominant in some scenes: -Red - The entrance of Hell, full of flames. -Blue - Chris watches a big tree lose its leaves, reflecting his sadness (Annie ruins her painting with acid). -Green - When Chris visits Annie in the psychiatric clinic. -Yellow - The great stairway full of people and the city between mountains, illuminated by an eternal sunset. -Black - Chris crosses a stormy sea in a raft. -White - Chris runs by a tunnel with a white light at the end of it.
In his searching for Annie's soul, Chris faces the four elements (water, earth, fire, and air) to find her: -Water - Chris leaves Afterlife to approach Hell, crossing a stormy sea in a raft with Albert and The Tracker. -Earth - Chris arrives at Hell, walking between sinking aircraft carriers. -Fire - Albert tries to enter into a place full of ghost soldiers, stopped by Chris in the last moment. This entire place appeared surrounded by flames. -Air - After walking by a ground full of faces, Chris makes a false step and he falls to a great abyss, finally locating Annie.
At one point in the movie, the deceased Chris forces the living Annie to write his name while she is writing in her diary. According to supernatural investigators, this is called Automatic Writing, a technique in which living people blank their minds to have it empty of thoughts, allowing a ghost or spirit to use the hand of the living to write messages from the afterlife. It was shown in The Changeling (1980).
When Chris leaves Annie's at cemetery and he vanishes from Earth, Chris appeared running by a tunnel with a white light at the end. This tunnel is the same painted by Hieronymus Bosh in his 1490's painting "Ascension of the Blessed", and depicted in the 1975's best seller "Life After Life", written by Dr. Raymond Moody.
When Chris, Albert and The Tracker arrive at Hell, they can be an aircraft carrier called Cerberus. In Greek Mythology, Cerberus was a ferocious three-headed dog, guardian of Hades (land of the dead), which mission was to avoid that living people entered to Hades, and that spirits of the dead not escape from it.
The main plot is a modern version from the Greek myth of Orpheus. According with it, Orpheus was Thrace's king who fell in love with a forest nymph called Eurydice. Using his special talent for music (he was considered the best music ever between mortals, as well as Apollo was it between the gods), Orpheus conquered Eurydice's love and he married her. Time later, when Eurydice was visiting his fellow nymphs in the forest, she was pursued by Aristaeus, Apollo's grandson and Hunters' god, who tried to force her. Escaping from him, Eurydice was bitten by a poisonous snake, dying quickly. Orpheus, turned crazy for the lost, taken his lyre and he traveled to the underworld of Hades (Greek's Afterlife), in order to ask to the god Hades to recover Eurydice's soul to resurrect her. After to convince Charon (Hades' ferryman) to cross the Stygia river that separates the living world from the land of the dead, and to defeat Cerberus (Hades' guardian, a three-headed dog) using his music, Orpheus arrived at Hades' palace, seducing to the god of the dead and his wife Persephone to accept his petition. Hades put the condition that he would must walk to the Hades' exit not turning back for looking Eurydice, who would walk a few steps behind him. If he never looked her until to leave land of the dead, she would live again. Orpheus tried to accomplish the mission, but he doubted when he was a few steps of the exit, losing her again when he turns back to verify if Hades' had lied to him. According an extended version of the story, Orpheus wandered by Greece to meet the Muses, nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, joking them in bad terms. Get angry, the muses killed Orpheus violently and broke his lyre against a stones. Zeus, touched by his death, met Orpheus with Eurydice in Elysium Fields (the side of the Hades reserved to good souls), meanwhile his lyre was converted in the Lyra constellation as remembrance of them story. It was the inspiration of the cult called Orphic Mysteries or Orphism.