Members of a cult, modeled on Aum Shinrikyo, sabotage a city's water supply, then commit mass suicide near the shores of a lake. Family members of those affected by it meet at the lake to observe the anniversary of their loved ones' deaths.
Twelve-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents' divorce, hears a rumor that the new bullet trains will precipitate a wish-granting miracle when they pass each other at top speed.
Ryota is a successful workaholic businessman. When he learns that his biological son was switched with another boy after birth, he faces the difficult decision to choose his true son or the boy he and his wife have raised as their own.
The film follows Hirata Yutaka, the first openly gay AIDS sufferer in Japan. Filmed over a series of months, it contrasts his public life as an outspoken figure on the lecture circuit with his personal descent into illness and death.
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
Much of the action in After Life is shown as interviews conducted with the recently deceased regarding their lives. Some of these interviews were scripted, but many were done impromptu, with real people (not actors) reminiscing about their own lives. See more »
I really loved Kore-eda's first feature "Maboroshi No Hikari", so I had been looking forward very much to seeing "Afterlife" (named "Wandafuru raifu" in Japanese, after Frank Capra's movie "It's a wonderful Life") during its run in London.
At first I noticed that the film is formally very different from its predecessor; while "Maboroshi No Hikari" owes much to the influence of Ozu, and especially Hou Hsiao-hsien, "Afterlife" draws more on the directors background as a documentary filmmaker. What the two films share, however, is the theme of memory (Note: also a theme with Hirokazu Kore-eda's documentary work - check out "Without Memory", about a man suffering of severe amnesia). In "Maboroshi No Hikari" Yumiko is not able to forget the memory of her dead husband, whereas in "Afterlife" the recently deceased must chose one memory that will accompany them into eternity.
I feel that Kore-eda handles this entirely hypothetical premise in the best possible way, by steering completely clear of the stylistic superficialities with which so many other films about life after death desperately try to make themselves believable. The unspectacular old school building as a setting, the ceiling window with its interchangeable templates for the different stages of the moon, a character who himself has doubts as to whether this is really the best way of going to the next world and the absence of any religious connotations, among other things, all serve to keep the focus on the characters and their memories - many of whom are actually real. Apart from tongue in cheek humour, the lack of music also prevents over-sentimentalization and makes the memories the people recall the more sincere. The no-budget filming of the recollections of the deceased in order to trigger their personal memory, toward the end of the movie, also illustrates that the director is fully aware of his own limitations and possibilities as a film-maker. Rather than just trying to create the illusion of some half-baked version of the hereafter, he wants to challenge the viewer to reflect on what would be his/her most important memory - and succeeds in every way.
This is a movie that surly can be appreciated by anyone who possesses at least a tiniest inkling of openness and willingness to experience cinema as more than mere entertainment. Top mark for this one!
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