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Director Clint Eastwood's Hereafter

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

This is a wonderful movie. However, I think no other movie is as difficult as this movie for us to explain its brilliance. Surely, from the outset of the movie, we are overwhelmed by a tsunami which hits a French couple on a South Seas island. However, that's not because of the force of the scene as a disaster film. Certainly the realistic depiction that the Tsunami, which was created by CG, engulfs the town and washes away trees, cars, and people gives the scene overwhelming force. However, that's not my point.

Rather, Clint Eastwood does not over exaggerate his depiction of the whole force of the tsunami. Instead he focuses on the female main character, a journalist played by C辿cile de France, who is being consumed by the tsunami and paints a very personal experience of someone getting swept away. Showing a very specific and unvarnished example of one person's experience of the tsunami really shook my heart. In fact, while the woman is getting washed away, she grabs hold of a fallen tree and just when it looks like she is about to escape danger, she is hit with a thud from behind by a car that has also been swept away and she is knocked unconscious. This scene is exactly like a comedic tale. But really, don't our lives play out like such a comedic tale? When I have thoughts like that, I feel as if I am almost touching the very depths of the mysteries of life.

The unconscious France can see a place that seems to be the semi-dark world of the afterlife. From here the main themes of the movie, the world of the afterlife and near death experiences, start to appear. However, even with regards to these main themes of the movie, Eastwood takes the same approach as with the tsunami scene. Eastwood doesn't depict the spiritual phenomenon in exaggerated imagery or as a strange and dreadful experience. Instead, he films the movie as an exceedingly ordinary and personal experience. For example, Matt Damon plays a medium that is the second main character of the movie. Just by grasping someone's hand he can communicate with the spirit that the person is thinking about. However, it is because of this ability that he was abandoned by a woman he met and liked in a cooking class. He communicated with the woman's dead father and brought back some past memories that were too painful for her. Therefore, he laments intently that this psychic power is nothing but a curse that overshadows his life.

In other words, this movie is not objectively about the issue of whether there is an afterlife or whether the spiritual phenomenon really exists. Right to the end, the issues are those that are concerned with each individual's life. Take the third main character, a young boy who is one half of a pair of twins, for instance. One day his older brother went out in his place to do some shopping and was killed in a traffic accident. The boy is desperate to meet his brother again by any means and so he goes from medium to medium, before finally meeting Matt Damon's character. Therefore, the spiritual phenomenon appears precisely because someone has a pressing need for it to occur.

So, because Eastwood depicts the spiritual phenomenon as personal experiences in this movie, we see one sweet scene after another unfold at a nonchalant pace. I could feel the kind of miracle that is living in each and everyone's life. One example of this is in an indoor scene where the young boy and his alcoholic mother are reluctant to part. In the background to this scene, rain is falling against the windowpane. However, as the two of them finish talking and leave the building the rain clears up and they are bathed in sunlight with a breeze gently blowing their hair. In this scene the weather could have been not important. However, it is just by the simple chance of going to do some shopping that fate can upset people's lives. Even if this simply happens by chance, it cannot be undone. This is why in this scene the rain that appears to be falling by chance, feels to me to be inevitable. It was at this point in the movie that from my point of view I felt I could see a kind of spiritual phenomenon appear.

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and dropped out of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences. Entered current position after working as an assistant professor at Chiba University.
Majors in visual culture and communication.
Major publications include “Cinema and Technological Experience”(seikyuusya), “Secrets and Pleasure of the Screen”(ibunsha), “Sociological Communication”(co-authored, Yuhikaku), and “It's TV! Everyone Gather Around”(co-authored, Seikyusha).