A small mid-20th century social-service-style office is a waystation for the souls of the recently deceased, where they are processed before entering their personal heaven - a single happy memory re-experienced for eternity. Every Monday, a new group of recently deceased people check in, and the "social workers" in the lodge explain their situation. Once the newly-dead have identified their happiest memories, workers design and replicate each person's chosen memory, which is staged and filmed. At the end of the week, the recently deceased watch the films of their recreated happiest memories in a screening room. As soon as each person sees his or her own memory, he or she vanishes to whatever state of existence lies beyond and takes only that single memory with them. The story pays most attention to two of the "counselors," Takashi (Arata) and Shiori (Oda). Takashi has been assigned to help an old man, Ichiro (played by Naito Taketoshi), select his memory. Reviewing videotape of ...Written by
Was released on DVD in France in 2010, 11 years after its 1999 theatrical release in the country. See more »
Kenji Yamamoto, who wants to forget his past:
Say I choose a memory, from when I was eight or ten years old. Then I'll only remember how I felt back then? I'll be able to forget everything else? Really? You can forget? Well, then that really is heaven.
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A thought experiment for humanists (and for humanists only)
The Afterlife is best thought of as a kind of thought experiment, perhaps in the same vein as Groundhog Day. The point is not that this may be what we experience after death; it is rather that we need to think more about what it is in this life that we'd really like to keep with us forever.
This point needs emphasis. When asked what we want most in life, most of us will talk about our career, or a business venture perhaps, or some other accomplishment. This movie suggests that these kinds of things may not, at the end of the day, be so important as some other experiences we may have. In any case, it challenges us to rethink what it is we really value.
Some reviewers complain about the quite ordinary surroundings and "poor production values" of the movie. I prefer to think of the choice of sets etc as humble and realistic. Could any movie, whatever its budget, ever possibly do justice to this subject matter?
Much of this movie is devoted to explorations of the lives of a number of rather ordinary people, trying to identify their most cherished memories. Some reviewers have condemned The Afterlife as boring, boring, BORING on this account. It all depends on whether other people interest you. If all you want to see is car chases, sex, explosions, cool special effects,...avoid this movie. Only, it's worth noting that the lives and thoughts of others may help us to better understand ourselves. And nowhere more so than in this movie.
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