Originally Posted by wasp
Yeah, absolutely, that was my reading, as well...
I think prior to movies like Interstellar and Arrival, I might have taken a bit more liking to a film like this that kind of hinges on the same core idea, the future informing the past and vice versa. The circular nature of time and existence, the physics and metaphysics of that, an existence which in our mortal lives seems so small and finite and linear. I appreciate films that take this concept, because it is one of my favorites in philosophy and sci-fi, and try to depict that in their stories.
But I did see this movie after Interstellar and Arrival, which have just been in the past couple years, and I felt like those films did it better. It was interesting that this film took it from a more metaphysical angle and the tone/pastiche of the film is a bit more abstract and tongue-in-cheek... but I don't know, it just didn't feel quite focused enough on what it wanted to say (and then when it suddenly wanted to spell some things out, it REALLY spelled them out--awkwardly and without much subtlety). I appreciated how it kind of incorporated where art fits into this idea and how important art is, communiques from the eternal consciousness or whatever, but at the end of the film I just didn't feel satisfied by the conclusions and resolutions the film came to. At the same time, it felt very intentional... the film chose not to "satisfy," it was never that kind of film. But I don't know, I just felt a bit non-plussed by the end of the film. Like, it wasn't working on a dramatic level at that point, and conceptually I just don't think it ended up that insightful or compelling. It goes through a couple interesting turns towards the end, seems like it might be heading towards something really significant or resonant... and then it just kind of ends.
I dunno, I guess the comparison to Interstellar really didn't help the end of the movie for me. I was like, "I've seen this before! But without a big white sheet with eye-holes!"
Originally Posted by wasp
I mentioned this as a high point of the move but maybe also it was too much of a gimmick without enough to support the weight of that shot's length.
That said, Rooney was good and it was a really memorable shot. It makes you sit with that character, forces you just to be with her in this low place, to the point where the sadness isn't even tangible in the face of just how uncomfortable the moment is.
Which is a pretty true accounting for what it's like to be in the presence of deep, soul-numbing grief.
The pie-eating scene is an endurance test. It is. The first half hour asks a lot from the viewer. It's mostly quiet, static shots. C and M on the couch, C and M in bed, M eating the pie. I mean, those three scenes are oners that take up a good chunk of the start!
But the beginning sets up a strong contrast to the rest of the movie. When M is listening to C's song and it cuts back to a living C, this does a few things: it foreshadows the non-linearity that will predominate in the third act, and it lays the groundwork for the editing tricks that became more frequent. Once M leaves the story, the camera comes to life, following C from room to room, and the passage of time speeds up. And it's all so reserved that big moments like the kitchen freakout are all the more powerful for it.
I get what you're saying about Interstellar. What used to be this mind-blowing concept of time that only us few that had read Vonnegut and Alan Moore knew about is now becoming more prominent in cinema. But I liked it here because of how alien it's presented. C is a distant figure, all body language and very little at that. Having him covered in a sheet means he's mostly a blank slate for the audience to project onto. The movie itself is nearly a silent film for a long stretch, and even when the mom and two kids move in they're speaking Spanish so we're still kept at a remove.
I'm reminded of other movies that have attempted to portray such an abstract existence. From a pure plot perspective this has the most in common with Ghost, but other than surface-level stuff the two movies really have nothing in common. There Sam is more like an invisible, intangible man than a ghost, as his perception of the world hasn't been altered.
The Sixth Sense is along the same lines as Ghost, in that Malcolm doesn't seem to be experiencing the world all that differently. Except, knowing in retrospect that he's dead, it becomes clear that there's no space between the scenes. Malcolm isn't "walking" from place to place. There isn't any downtime. What we're seeing is his perception of time, except it's masked by cinematic language. A Ghost Story does the same thing, using editing cuts to show how C sees the world (for instance, the shot-reverse shot of the dead little girl, back to C, back to rotted girl, back to C, back to skeleton girl), but foregrounds it.
I'm also reminded of Enter the Void, the 2010 movie that is entirely from a first-person perspective and follows a man as he's shot and dies. There's a similar sort of anonymity and projection there, as the main character Oscar is kind of a cipher (except for his possibly too-close relationship with his sister), and there's not so much a narrative as a stream-of-consciousness mix of his memories and his flying around the city seeing glimpses of the months and possibly years following his death. That has a similar sort of cyclical ending, which I guess stems from these movies approaching spirituality from a non-denominational or even humanist perspective.
Without religion in the mix, crafting a story about the afterlife seems to default to either reincarnation or finding closure that leads to an ambiguous nothingness, or a bit of both. The Oldham hillbilly hipster monologue brings up the question of God, in his claim that Beethoven and early artists were celebrating God with their art and that allowed their art a kind of transcendence. But other than that and the pioneers praying, there's no clear display of heaven or hell. That clear portal at the beginning could be the pearly gates leading to clouds in the sky and choirs of angels, or it could be becoming one with the Force for all we know.
So this fascination with permanence and temporality is almost approaching spirituality through science. If matter cannot be created or destroyed, it has to go somewhere. So we end up with reincarnation (What Dreams May Come, although there is an afterlife there but it's all a product of perception even if there's a kind of Jungian collective unconsciousness) or basically tachyons moving back and forth through time.
Eh, I don't know. Movie got my brain working.