Written and directed by #PaulWright
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
I continue to be impressed by the vision of independent film and filmmakers. These grounds really are fertile with imagination and cinematic power, and seeing so many films continually cast a spell on you, makes you excited for the big screen future to come, as these artists and creators move on to bigger work down the line. AfterLife is an incredibly difficult short to describe because on one hand the most basic of synopsis does not really reflect how interesting the short is, and on the other hand to go into too much detail would be futile as this is a film meant to provoke thought and which welcomes differing interpretation.
Originally made for the purposes of accompanying a live music performance of a score by #JayCapperauled and commissioned by #LewisBanks, which was inspired by #DavidEagleman’s book ‘Sum: Forty tales from the after lives’, AfterLife’s journey to film is intriguing. Writer/director #PaulWright was initially mistaken for someone else of the same name when hired but his visual reflection of this music impressed so much he remained on board. The production did make it to stage too (with some level of praise) but this short is a re-edited and re-scored version of that vision, made to play on the festival circuit and vision is very much the word here.
I mention this film’s interesting journey to the screen because it adds further layers to what is already a thought inducing piece of work. Separated into segments, the film begins with a young woman called Alice (#LeahBaskaran), in the woods confronted with a difficult choice of two doors, her decision takes her on a meditative, otherworldly and dark journey beyond the parameters of life, though inspired by it.
Conjuring up a Lynchian harrowing nature at points, next to a Kubrickian ambition, AfterLife is a very engaging viewing, that doubtless brings to screen the ideas of the written source material that acted as the inspiration for it coming into being. Wright’s VFX background experience stands tall in a film that is visually spellbinding at points, using the budget to create an involving ocular journey, inspired by the unknown nature of what lies beyond the world of the living. Absurd imagery meets some ruminative images of conception and creation, with dashes of nightmarish devastation.
The film’s very best segment is perhaps the dark figure-strewn “Deja-Vu” chapter, which at points evokes the kind of psychological imagery that preyed on the corridors of Rodney Ascher’s compelling horror-infused sleep paralysis documentary The Nightmare. In fact, throughout the entire work, you already have a haunting yet appealing score by Wright, which adds edges of dark atmosphere and matches superbly with the sometimes shadowy, sometimes glowing and sometimes transportive cinematography by #JamesKenendy.
This truly is a work of aesthetic power, some sequences do not strike you as strongly as others and not everyone will appreciate the withdrawn nature of the story being told. It is very much an open book of a film and we will not all be on the same page. However, Leah Baskaran offers an engaging performance that is less about the spoken word (practically no dialogue populates the film), so much as physically answering what is going on around her, and the facial and emotional responses to her own life and past, as well as this unforeseen future.
AfterLife is a film that arose from music-driven art and it shows, for this short is a wild marriage of audio-visual direction, which creates something to think on. Your understanding of the the film, its identity or its ideas may well depend on your own beliefs but whatever the case, from the doorway jumping fragmented structure, to the kaleidoscopic final images, this is certainly one that maintains your attention for its 15+ minute duration and which leaves you with much to digest afterwards.