I grew up in an Evangelical church. The children’s pastors stressed end time prophecy in Sunday School and we watched some of the movies that were being produced at that time about it. I am pretty sure one of them was The Thief in the Night. I searched for the it on YouTube so that I could briefly see it for this review. The acting is abysmal. It is amazing that movies like this had such an affect on me. The characters in the movie that were left behind were subject to brutal deaths like decapitations and they made us watch this as small children.
We learned that those unwilling to take the mark of the beast would be denied the ability to buy food and therefore had to pick between starving to death or burning in hell for taking up the 666 mark. There are some adults that will laugh these movies off but they are not experiencing this as a child. When you still do not have a fully developed brain you are being told that you could be separated from your parents who you are fully dependent on, this thought is traumatizing. As I look back on this now so much could have been explained to me that would have really helped me at that time. The message in Defending Your Life would have been invaluable in my upcoming teenage years.
This film is about the deceased being judged on the courage that they showed during pivotal moments of their life. Video clips of them play as they stand before what looks like a litigation scene. Gauging the success of a person’s life by the bravery they displayed is much more meaningful and important to life than arguing which of countless holy books could be true. What is the value in guessing what cannot be verified? This is what I needed at this stage in my life, whether it be struggling to speak up in situations where it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do or by taking on challenges were I failed numerous times before. The end time movies like I mentioned previously are all about trying to control the audience into beliefs based on unsubstantiated claims. In stark contrast this film inspires you to do the things that we know can be beneficial to society in the here and now and improve yourself at the same time. This is what makes a better world. I recommend this as a starting point for anyone looking to get into Albert Brooks’ movies. His other films like Real Life and Broadcast News are great but I don’t know if they leave you with such life changing and thought provoking lessons. You are not left with just being an observer but you think about these scenes when they come up in your real life.
What impacted me the most about “The Fisher King” is how the relationship between the would be romantic couple isn’t working. You get to know each of deep character intricacies and can see how they would work together but each of them don’t put in the effort to make it happen. They are both very set on this idea that continued past failures will lead to present day failure. One of the reoccurring locales in the film they visit is a VHS rental store. In a scene Parry leads his love interest around the store to find the right title. Perhaps he should have recommended "Defending Your Life" for both of them to watch and they wouldn’t make so much of the same mistakes that are dooming their lives.
The Hirokazu Kore-eda film is about the recently deceased finding themselves in a limbo realm where they must pick just one memory to bring into the next life. Observing their decisions made me re-prioritize my life too. Putting so much thought into carefully choosing a single thing makes you realize that your initial ideas were not that important. It seems like this would be something that many Japanese would think about given that the country had a so called “economic miracle” in the 1950s through the early 1970s. This gave many of their citizens stability but concurrently produced employees that were just bored clogs in the wheel. This was exemplified in an earlier film from 1952 titled Ikiru. The star of that movie Takashi Shimura who played Kanji Watanabe has a role in After Life 40+ years later. I am sure he had much to think about on the subject in that intervening time.
There used to be an ad on TV that asked “if you made a book on your life would anyone read it?” I like to think that After Life turns this question around a bit. Many people might struggle to write a book so narrowing the focus may be a much easier stepping stone. Finding this one thing may be a good way to convince a potential audience why they should follow through with exploring more of your content. Usually when someone is trying to sell a book or movie they piece together assorted highlights. Something happens when you start the process of ranking memories instead of compiling the best and purging the boring parts. You begin to train your mind to focus on what is important and that takes practice. I don’t think most people are naturally good at this as we tend to overlook significant moments.
Rudy is a great movie about deciding what you should go after in life and when you should just tune certain people out. From the movie poster you might just think it is a Football movie but, to me anyways, the core of the movie is not sports. The message that says just because you are surrounded by people telling you to go one way doesn’t necessarily mean they have the slightest idea what they are talking about. It is so valuable to say this message because they don’t know what is inside of you and how what you choose to go after will effect everyone else in your life by how you inspire them and the sacrifices you set forth.
It shows how the tragedy of death at a young age can spur you out of a position of being stuck. The reminder that time is limited and not all young men live long encourages us to not give up or more specifically even wait at all until you are at your goal. Life is too short. In the next movie “Vision Quest” the Language Arts teacher asks a student about a poem he just read. What did that mean to him?
Student: “(The subject) is feeling sad about the leaves falling from the trees and the poet tells her that what she is really sad about is that she is beginning to realize that she is going to die someday too, the thing is she is already dying.”
Teacher: “Is that a good thing to realize or do you think we are better not thinking about it?”
Student: “Nobody likes to think about it, I don’t like to think about it but if you don’t you might go through life thinking you have plenty of time. You put off the really important stuff until later. Pretty soon before you know it, there is no time left, you’ve blown it.”