Saturday, March 19, 2016

In Brief: Life After Life (2016) New Directors New Films 2016

After a brief verbal fight a son runs away from his father in pursuit of a hare. When he returns a short time later he has been possessed by the spirit of his dead mother. The spirit tell the father that she will leave if he will move the tree that sits in front of their now abandoned home. Why should he move the tree? So that he will remember the past when he sees it.

Jia Zhangke produces Zhang Hanyi's magical realistic tale of  spirits walking among us. Set in a desolate landscape of rural China the film ponders existence and the absurdity of life. Its a film seemingly set on another planet or some post apocalyptic earth with everything somewhere past run down and life going on because it would seem this is where we life.

Told in long takes, and usually from a distance it's clear that this world is one that is just outside of our grasp. It's a place where spirits come back, some times briefly as in the case of the returned wife and mother , and in other cases as new lives such as the parents who have been reborn as animals. We are there to observe and not take part.

I'm not sure what I think of the film. I love the look of the film and I love how that look greats a real sense of mood and sense of place. I am intrigued by some of the philosophy of the film, but at the same time there is a deliberatness to it all that kept me the wrong sort of distanced. I could see director Hanyi's wheels spinning and I got the sense that he was just off screen moving the pieces around. I don't think it makes it a bad film, it just keeps it from being the great film that some of the reviews coming out of Berlin had it pegged as.

Worth a look.

LIFE AFTER LIFE plays later today and tomorrow at New Director New Films. For more information and tickets go here.

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