It was Thomas Dylan who said in « Elegy » that, « until I die he will not leave my side. » That probably sums up the theme of death for the living. As we cannot know what another thinks especially one who has died, it is the living that we know of. And it is the living that is not letting go. This is possibly the central theme of the movie “Hereafter”, the latest movie of Clint Eastwood.
I was never a fan. His movies have the notorious reputation of being intense. Yet I am the unwilling fan. From “Million Dollar Baby” to “Gran Torino” to “Invictus” to “Hereafter”, there are so many more but these I remembered and remained haunted by them. Unwilling, is also probably a good theme to be associated to his movies. And it helped that his cast is also of the very best, whether famous or unknown.
“Hereafter” tells the story of 3 people who were not connected but all struggling with the thought of afterlife. It include: a little boy who had lost his brother, a woman who survived Tsunami and a man who can connect with those who had died. All of them unwillingly had to ask the question of hereafter. Perhaps, it is less of a question than reconciliation with this topic.
Mr. Eastwood’s craft is the ability to direct us to a certain height of emotions like the turning of the screw, slowly but surely, usually the kind of emotions we do not want to face and leave us there, just shot of one turn to the highest. And this missing turn is what turned us from weeping or complete release of emotions a lesser movie like the final scene of “Armageddon” or dramatic abuse that can be cheesy to an insightful question. It leaves you feeling unresolved, not reconciled and with more questions than the beginning of the film. There is no clever twist in plot, no mind-bending theories, just a simple raw emotion, that exposes humanity that anyone can relate to.
I sat next to an old lady during the movie. Frankly, I was annoyed that she had arrived late, made lots of noise settling in and affected my movie experience. But towards the end of the movie, we sniffed and snuffled, turned to one another and connected on a simple human emotion of having lost someone. Who hasn’t? Yet, it is not the loss of someone that the film provoked in us, but the empathy to the feeling of not wanting to let go.
“Hereafter” has no fantastic theatrics or action. There are no memorable lines or complex plot. It is a simple, straight forward movie with a not so straight forward theme. In the end, one of the characters said it well, the conspiracy of silence.