–“The afterworld, a world of never ending happiness–U can always see the sun, day or night… [But] in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld–in this life, you’re on your own.
—–– Little Purple Philosopher
–“Do you believe in the hereafter? Then you know what I’m here after!”
—–– Reuben Dalton Bodhi Swayze pitchin’ woo to Helen Hunt in Next of Kin
In Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, the afterlife looks like the usual rush of white, beatific, New-Agey light–a well-lit place where you sit around all day hoping Matt Damon will take your call. (Reserve Hereafter at redbox.com)
That got me thinking of other cinematic depictions of the Great Beyond, ranging from the somber to the weird to the downright silly. Whatever you believe (or don’t) about life after death, it’s always fascinating to see what film writers, directors, and art departments come up with when imagining the Afterlife.
Who’s Passed On? 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) at the hands of the neighborhood serial killer.
The Afterlife Looks Like: The In Between, sometimes a pretty national park, and sometimes a sparkling, colorful CGI fun house where you can play dress-up all day. While sorting out your unresolved feelings about having been murdered while still a virgin.
Only Problem Is: Repressed emotions tend to manifest as haunted lighthouses and broken ship bottles. Also, no boys to kiss.
Who’s Passed On? Christina Ricci, a schoolteacher who was in a fatal (?) car accident
The Afterlife Looks Like: A stark, sterile funeral-home preparation room run by mortician Liam Neeson.
Only Problem Is: You might not really be dead. And if you’re not dead, you’re in a relationship with Justin Long.
Who’s Passed On? Robin Williams in car crash and then later his wife, Annabella Sciorra, commits suicide. (She must have missed all the wacky voices.)
The Afterlife Looks Like: Heaven is a Renoir painting. Hell is a sea of faces you have to step on, sort of like an other-worldly mosh pit.
Only Problem Is: Cuba Gooding Jr is your afterlife guide. If you’re really bad, he makes you watch Snow Dogs and Boat Trip.
Who’s Passed On? Warren Beatty, a second-string NFL quarterback for the L.A. Rams, dies in a car accident
The Afterlife Looks Like: The usual–clouds, dry ice, an airplane to Heaven. Angels resembling Buck Henry and James Mason in business suits.
Only problem Is: The Rams? Really? You gotta get back to the Earthly plane so you can play for the Rams?
Who’s Passed On? Albert Brooks (another car accident–either the danger of car wrecks looms large in our collective American subconscious or we really are a nation of awful drivers).
The Afterlife Looks Like: An office building and corporate park full of middle managers, including Rip Torn, and other recently deceased folk like Meryl Streep.
Only problem Is: Middle managers means more bureaucracy! You must prove you’ve used your life well so you can move on to a higher level of existence in your next incarnation. Oh, and you’re Albert Brooks, so that’s going mean some neurotic hand wringing.
Who’s Passed On? Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in (yep, you guessed it) a car wreck.
The Afterlife Looks Like: A tacky DMV waiting room full of Burton-y freak-accident victims.
Only problem Is: To have some posthumous peace and quiet you need to scare the new family out of your former home. And do to that, you need to hire Michael Keaton. The funny, manic ’80s Michael Keaton, not the moody, brooding ’90s version.
Who’s Passed On? Kevin Costner’s dad, Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley, Ray Liotta and the banned 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox.
The Afterlife Looks Like: A cornfield near Dyersville and Dubuque, Iowa.
Only problem Is: You’re not in Heaven, you’re in an Iowa cornfield. Hey, maybe instead of playing ball all day, how about doing a little detasseling?
Who’s Passed On? Oscar, a young slacker hippie druggie (Yahtzee!) living in Tokyo
The Afterlife Looks Like: Tokyo and a lifetime of memories as seen through Oscar’s trippy, floaty, ghostly, gauzy point of view and interpreted via The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Only problem Is: Oscar wants to reincarnate as his sister’s child, but she’s not exactly living a stable life conducive to positive procreation. At least I think that’s what’s going on — it’s a little hard to tell most of the time.
Who’s Passed On? Thanks to the salmon mousse, Geoffrey and Angela and their dinner guests, Jeremy and Fiona Portland-Smythe, and Howard and Debbie Katzenberg from Philadelphia.
The Afterlife Looks Like: A Vegas floor show with half-naked women in Santa suits and Tony Bennett singing that it’s Christmas in Heaven — every single day!
Only problem Is: Death is kinda grumpy: “You always talk, you Americans. You talk and you talk and say ‘let me tell you something’ and ‘I just wanna say this.’ Well, you’re dead now, so shut up!”