'Hereafter' asks the eternal questions
By MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Published: 10/22/2010 2:18 AM
Last Modified: 10/22/2010 4:56 AM
What happens after that moment that a person dies?
Is that it? Is there more? That certainly qualifies as one of society’s “big questions.” Director Clint Eastwood, speaking at a recent press conference, wants to ensure people that his new film, “Hereafter,” is about big questions. The film is not about answers. “It raises a lot of questions, but that’s where it ends,” Eastwood said of his 31st film directing effort, which follows three characters who explore their own mortality and that of others.
“It’s up to the audience to meet you halfway and think about it in terms of their own lives and what experiences they might have had.
The film opens Friday and portrays the experiences of three characters that ultimately intersect: An American man (played by Matt Damon) has an unwanted psychic connection to the dead; a French journalist (Cecile de France) has a near-death experience during a tsunami that changes her way of thinking; a London youth feels lost after the death of his twin brother.
"We don't know what's on the other side, but on this side, it's final," Eastwood said outside of the press conference. "People have their beliefs about what's there or what's not there, but those are all hypotheticals. Nobody knows until you get there."
He said he was intrigued by screenwriter Peter Morgan ("The Queen") weaving in real events (the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, the 2005 London terrorist bombings) and by the fact that the story was not a faith-based project.
"Ithad a spirituality about it, but it wasn't tied in with any particular organized religious thought," Eastwood said of Morgan's script. "Whether you believe in an afterlife or some after-death experience, whether that's happened or not, I don't know.
"It's a fantasy and whether there is something like that, well, that would be terrific, (but) it remains to be seen."
Morgan said he wrote from an angle of "irreligious enlightenment, (as) I don't have any religious belief in an afterlife." Rather, he was moved by reading one woman's journalistic, investigative search for answers after her sister died of breast cancer.
"We have so much understanding of what goes on prior to birth, and we have so little idea of what goes on after death," Morgan said at the press conference. He joined Eastwood in stressing that filmgoers shouldn't look to the film as having "some scoop here" about what comes after death.
"That's not what the film is. It's really a story of inquiring curiosity, and a feeling of incompleteness and living with mystery. (It's) something that unites all of us, like nothing other than birth, and we're going to do it all alone."
While his new film naturally induces a contemplation of life and death, Eastwood said it didn't happen for him at age 21 in 1950, when he was in a military plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco.
"As I was going in, I kept thinking about, 'Should I be thinking about my demise?' but all I could think about, as I saw some lights in the city is, 'There's somebody in there having a beer, sitting next to a fireplace, and I really want to be in there.' But there was no sense of fate."
At age 80, don't talk to Eastwood about retirement, much less what happens after death. He has no interest in meeting either fate anytime soon.
He referenced Manoel de Oliveira, the Portuguese film director who turns 102 in December and continues to make movies.
"I plan to do the same thing," said Eastwood, who seems to get better with age, providing his audience with a big answer to perhaps the most important question on this day.
Original Print Headline: Asking the eternal questions in 'Hereafter'
Michael Smith 581-8479
Reading the comments on the original page, I feel so sorry for all those people who deny God and a "Hereafter!" What kind of a life can you lead if there is no hope for it to continue on later when we die? Does not believing or at least saying there is no heaven or hell, allow a person to do whatever he or she wants now and not have to be rewarded for our actions later. Is there no judgement? The world has certainly become very atheistic but like Our Lady says in her apparitions: "Believe in God!" And I say, don't wait for your death to believe because then it's too late. But God, being all merciful, wants us all to be with Him in heaven. That's why He created us! He will not abandon us, so God is going to soon correct the conscience of the world with a divine intervention: The Warning or Illumination is coming soon. The Saints have prophesied it and so has Our lady in many of her apparitions. It will be supernatural; it will be scary; some may die from a heart attack over it, but after it is over, everyone will believe in God; atheism will be a thing of the past! Hang in there, fellow believers, be at peace+