The Invisibles Ones

in 12th Vladivostok Pacific Meridian International Film Festival

by Home

The Life After (La vida después) by Mexican director David Pablos follows its own title. The life with its countless “Why?” disappears. It is only consequences that remain: point-counter-point of details and reactions — subtle and precise — unwittingly dropped phrases, fragments of conversations which make sense only in the view of the finale. The plot is very simple: one day Lucy leaves her children to commit suicide, like her father, in the family apartment. The children — a young man and a teenager — move on as they dream of overcoming both their despair and hope.

But, maybe, there is no present time and the mother died perhaps a long time ago? Maybe, the film is just a memory of the younger boy who wants to come back into the past (or forward into the future)? The time here follows the circumstances but doesn’t coincide with them. The opening shots present the paradise lost, shown as if over the shoulder — the mother, the children, and the sea, unfocused in the sun. Lucy calls for the child as if she lost him. The child enthusiastically accepts the game. Once he puts on the slip and the shirt, he is not invisible any more. Later he candidly repeats the trick. He undresses during the funeral and tries to open the coffin to “secretly” see the dead grandfather.

The drama concerns this border between life and thoughts of life: the all too obvious truth about the (alcoholic) mother and the suicidal grandfather (“What do ‘You’ think he did on the day of his suicide? — I think it was as usual: he woke up, had a beer and shot himself”) struggles with imagination and forces it not to enter into details and keep silent. Evading the narrator’s responsibility the director leaves many things off-screen. The situations seem both important and trivial and the reasons for the suicide (before committing suicide the mother runs over a dog, while earlier one of the sons makes up a story about a suicidal neighbor eaten by dogs) seem both significant and opaque. Yet nobody tries to explain them.

It seems that the one who could narrate this story desires two opposite things at once — truth and fiction, life and contemplation. He wants both to go beyond the limits of his biography, as unwitting witness, and stay within, as an accomplice; he relies on good luck and secretly dreams about fatality. It is no coincidence that the camera, time and again, brings our gaze to the brink of the medium shot. The future never comes, the past never ends. Even when the characters share the same space, each of them lives in his separate present. Even shot and reverse shot, which the director generously uses, only imitate the effects of a dialogue suggesting permanent failure of communication.

Obviously, this solipsistic manner of narrating is highly vulnerable. As he avoids concrete details and fears to be too “simple” the director multiples unanswered “Whys?” The abstract manner enfeebles the story, makes it too contrived. The film somehow promises much more than it ultimately gives. But both its strengths and its weaknesses are evidence of ample breath.

Edited by Steven Yates