Instead of this week's 'What is Cinema,' I posted an essay I wrote on the film Afterlife and its connection to atrocity photographs from the second World War. I wanted to post this right now because of the attention being given to Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and the implications of atrocity photographs from our most recent spectacle of horror. Though I must say that I rather doubt most people will have the patience to read it, so I will do a quicker review of Afterlife here.

Afterlife is about people, who after they die, are given the choice of one memory which will be the only memory they live with in the afterlife. Though ostensibly about a possible place people go after they die, the film is fairly openly about documentary theory. The director, Koreeda Hirokazu, is primarily a documentarist, and he has said that he started this film as a project to see how people would depict their experience of themselves to themselves. The film on the whole is rather sweet and leaves you feeling rather warm in the end, but it deals with some rather intense issues.

To put it simply, most of the men who have to choose the memory that they take to the Afterlife, were involved in the second world war, and while only one is enthusiastic enough about the war that it seems he might have chosen a memory from the situation, many other characters were obviously effected by the conflict - Including the man who had to live with a tremendous burden of guilt, and the staff person who died too young to really have a memory worth choosing.

The memories that are chosen mostly have to do with the experience of another person, or more importantly, the experience of being for another person. More than one of the memories involve a simple interaction of images from the individual to the loved one, back to the individual, the chosen memories always accentuate the fact that the person exists without asking the question who he or she is, what his or her personality is, only that the individual existed for another individual, in an experience vaguely relating to the experience of love.

Putting background presence of the war next to the foreground presence of "being together with someone," rather successfully shows how film can have the ability to bring out the qualities of each individual which are irrevocably good. While Koreeda plays with a number of different types of images which he understands as "dishonest," (including films which are supposed to be mysteriously taken from the time of the event), he seems to be convinced that film has a fundamentally positive effect on the understanding of the experience of living, as long as it is in the right hands.

Of course, the experience of living is not always positive... but for that you will have to read the essay.

Buy Afterlife here

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