Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010

Into the Hereafter'

By David Luhrssen
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The tsunami that rushes through a Third World resort in the opening sequence of Hereafter is one of the best uses of CGI ever. Vividly real (and all the more impressive on a big screen), the cascading ocean wave is enough to make you duck your head as the flow carries Marie (Cecile de France), a French anchorwoman, through buildings collapsing from the weight of the water. The opening is cinema on all cylinders, and afterward, director Clint Eastwood slows the pace and dims the lights to funereal. Hereafter is an essay on death and Marie crossed halfway to the other side before being revived, gasping for air. She will never be the same.

Hereafter follows three protagonists grappling with death whose stories eventually converge. Marie returns to Paris, haunted by the idea that she glimpsed something transcendent while nearly drowning. Over in San Francisco, George (Matt Damon) is a psychic convinced that his wild talent is a curse, not a gift. Imagine how disconcerting it is to touch the hand of a hopeful girlfriend and be filled with visions of her parents’ demise. In London, little Marcus mourns the death of his twin, which he overhead on his mobile phone, listening in stunned horror as his brother was beaten by a gang and run over by a truck as he tried to run.

The unhurried pace of Hereafter gives us plenty of time to get to know the protagonists and sympathize with their different but related problems. All three have been confronted by the reality of death and are searching for answers in a world of dogmatic secularism, divisive religiosity and mountebanks pretending to powers they don’t possess. Like the dim palette of shadows in which most of Hereafter is filmed, Eastwood proposes only that we are surrounded by things unseen.

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