After Life

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first fiction feature, Maborosi (1995), was about a woman gradually adjusting to her husband’s death. His second (1998, 118 min.) is very different, an allegorical fantasy set at an abandoned school that represents a halfway house between earth and heaven. Guides have a few days to help the recently deceased find a key memory to take with them to heaven, then they film each memory, with the person’s input, shortly before his departure. A distinguished documentarist before he turned to fiction, Kore-eda bolstered his conceit in this feature by recording the memories of hundreds of elderly Japanese people, some of whom he cast in this film. Though it comes across as labored in spots, it also yields a good many beautiful and suggestive moments, and an overall film experience of striking originality. In Japanese with subtitles. (JR)

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