Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Death Neglected II: Time of Your Life

When most people think about "heaven", clouds, fat lil' cherubs, rivers of honey and fruits (especially grapes, which I hope is seedless), and formless white robes come to mind. Not really the way people want to spend eternity, but I guess if the only alternative is being engulfed in flames while simultaneously stabbed by red-dudes with sharp objects, then, I guess playing a harp ain't so bad. Still, I mean, THAT'S the ultimate prize? The boringer and less painful of the two evils? And really, how is one judged? Does good or evil thoughts count? What if you've done one giant good thing (save bus load of kiddies) but also tons of tiny bad things (say, litter)? Is there some kind of point system, just to be fair?

Japanese film, After Life, (or Wandafuru Raifu, literally, "Wonderful Life") suggest a great solution to these dilemmas. Set in "limbo", the newly deads find that there is no heaven, no hell, just 7 days for you to decide on the best moment in your life where you want to spend eternity. Sounds like a wonderful thing right? Until you start to really think back on your life. How many truly worth while moments have you accumulated? When are the times which you really feel good about yourself? Feel safe, feel happy?

(I can't find a good trailer, so here's a little poster)

This quiet and thoughtful movie not only focus on a group of newly deads' search for a single, defining moment, but also on the "limbo staff", who are there because they themselves were never able to pick a memory. The film covers a variety of people: a teenage girl who wants to pick a shallow, happy moment, an average joe who upon watching hours after hours of his mundane life still can't find anything, a punk rebel who refuses to make a decision, a quiet old woman who seems content picking leaves and flowers rather than choosing...et al. Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda interviewed over 500 people to create this wonderful documentary/ fiction style film. Thankfully, you can buy this film on Amazon rather than struggle with china town bootlegs. You can even Netflix it! Look how far we've come!

While the rules of afterlife in this film is quite different from the typical Christian thought of heaven and hell, if Wandafuru Raifu's rules WERE the standard belief, and people work more toward making their lives more "meaningful" rather than "good", perhaps the world would be a better place. Afterall, if you're told that your life is your heaven, maybe people would try to be a little less afraid, and a little happier.