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Old 05-01-2008, 04:06 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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After Life
(1998, Arata, Erika Oda, Dir. Hirokazu Koreeda)

In Koreeda's After Life, the newly deceased spend the after life reliving one memory. Before proceeding on to this after life, the dead people get a few days to choose that memory, guided by a counselor who is assigned to them.

The film is from the perspective of the counselors over the course of a week - particularly focusing on Takashi Mochizuki (Arata), an experienced counselor who runs into a difficult case, and on Shiori (Erika Oda), the counselor he is training.

The film took a little while to get into as the first part of the film mainly consists of montages of the people as they describe the memories they are considering. In this stage, the film is mainly a conceptual piece. The concept of this type of after life is intriguing, but it's not until the threads of a story start thickening and becoming clearer that I began to better appreciate the film. It's still a maybe too-slight storyline in the end, at least for my tastes.

I did like the character of Shiori because she gave emotional variety to the film - her obvious attachment to Mochizuki, her anger and searching for her place. I also appreciated the one deceased person who stated that he wouldn't choose a memory, and asked all sorts of great questions, such as could a person choose a dream as their memory?

It's an interesting point that by and large the memories chosen are not chosen for being important events, but instead for capturing a certain mood - usually of contentment. I am inclined to think this is largely due to the film being from Japan. The memories are like haikus - a small description containing a large feeling. I feel that if it were an American film, the individuals would be choosing major life events, moments of passion, achievement and triumph.

Of course, when watching the film, one starts thinking about what memory one would choose. Personally, I don't like the idea of an after life that consists of reliving only one memory. Sounds pretty monotonous to me. Variety is what makes life great and I'd hate to lose it all. If I had to, I'd probably pick a moment of contentment like the Japanese characters in the film. Maybe a sailing outing or a hike. I know there is one place in Maine that I've always imagined as being a taste of heaven.

Overall, a pleasant, intelligent film.


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