Trilogy 3: After Life (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/11/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 123 mins

The third part of Lucas Belvaux’s impressive genre trilogy is a well-acted, gripping drama that stands on its own but also shades in all the ‘offscreen’ moments from the previous two films – a cinematic event in the making, part 3.

After Life (or “Three”, as cinema listings are calling it) is the third part in Lucas Belvaux’s impressive, ambitious genre trilogy. The central idea involves viewing the world from a chosen angle – hence our opinion of the various characters changes depending on the genre, but is also coloured by the exclusion of certain elements from each genre, specifically: light from the thriller, death from the comedy, fantasy from the melodrama.

The result is three different films taking place at the same time, each of which can stand alone but each of which also, in Belvaux’s words, allows us “to see the characters in light of whether they are living their own lives or crossing the lives of others”. Although they can be viewed in any order, it’s probably better to see After Life last.

Coppers, Teachers And Heroin Addicts

Gilbert Melki plays Pascal, a cop in Grenoble. He’s married to Agnes (Dominique Blanc), a teacher who works with both Jeanne (Catherine Frot) and Cecille (Ornella Muti). However, Jeanne is a heroin addict and has been since before she and Pascal got together.

The only reason she is able to keep it together is because Pascal has a deal with local gangster, Jaquillat – he’ll keep Agnes supplied with morphine in return for Pascal looking the other way on occasion. However, when Jaquillat asks Pascal to kill escaped prisoner Bruno le Roux (Belvaux), Pascal refuses and Jaquillat cuts off his wife’s supply.

At the same time, Pascal finds himself falling for his wife’s friend Cecille after she persuades him to investigate her husband. Meanwhile, Agnes decides to find her own drugs and ends up being looked after by le Roux after an overdose…

Superb Acting Throughout

The acting is superb throughout, especially Melki, who is curiously expressionless, which adds considerably to his performance in the three films - it makes sense for Pascal to be the focus of the third film, since our perception of his character changes most from film to film. Here, he emerges as a much more sympathetic figure, indeed, perhaps even the ultimate ‘hero’ of the trilogy.

There are several great scenes, as well as a number of subtly different versions of scenes that appeared in the previous two films (the second film pulls the same trick), either shot from a different character’s perspective or in a minutely different way.

It’s the kind of film that makes you want to go back and watch the previous scenes to see if you can ‘spot’ things such as Pascal hiding behind a door in a crucial scene from the first film. At any rate, this should ensure a decent shelf life for the DVD.

In short, After Life is an enjoyable drama in its own right, but the effect of seeing all three films together is something quite different and original. (Hopefully, by the time ‘Three’ is released, certain arthouse cinemas will be showing all three at once). Highly recommended – the Trilogy as a whole is a five star cinematic experience and it will be extremely interesting to see what Belvaux does next.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 14:34

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