I recently watched the movie Hereafter, another film where Clint Eastwood shows his amazing creativity and ability to tell a story. It’s a film that lingers in your mind and keeps you thinking on many levels.
The official synopsis:
“A drama centered on three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter.”
It’s actually three stories that come together at the very end of the film. Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland. Frost/Nixon) were brilliant in the way they introduced us to the characters in one of the stories within the movie. We see two adolescent twin boys in a photo studio having their portrait taken. The photographer is chatting them up, trying to get expressions out of them. We know within the first minute of dialog how vastly different the two boys are, even though they appear to be identical. A simple yet powerful way to set up the story for that particular part of the film.
The cinematography was extraordinary and a reason in itself to see the movie. In the beginning of the movie is some of the most vivid underwater cinematography I have ever seen as the camera captures the ravages of a tsunami. The footage was vivid and real, yet poetic and surreal at the same time. It was also incredibly intimate. In fact throughout the entire movie I felt like I was inside the film or a part of it because of the intimacy of the cinematography. I’d like to watch the film again and just try to look at it with my eye on the craft of cinematography.
As far as the story structure, it’s not easy to make a film that is made up of separate stories, yet connected in an organic way. Connected in a way that makes sense to the viewer and doesn’t feel forced. One great example of a film that does this well is Love Actually. Eastwood also pulls it off in Hereafter. He is a master storyteller and he seamlessly brings us back and forth between the three stories leaving us wondering how at times how they are connected to one another yet not being distracted by it.
I’ve been reading a lot about storytelling and story structure lately and I can appreciate when I see it done well in a film or a book or even at a party. I think sometimes we take the art of storytelling for granted because when it’s done well it goes unnoticed. Go see Hereafter. Clint Eastwood continues to amaze.