Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Absence makes the heart grow

Movie Review for The Lovely Bones

I’m writing this on a dark night where my head has slowed down to a halt. I’m sleepy. My head is heavy with images. If I close my eyes, pictures linger in my mind. Image of dried-up roses. Surreal landscapes. A sinkhole. A model ship in a bottle. Teenaged retro-style girls. A serial killer. A doll house. Cornfields.

The Lovely Bones, a film by the great Peter Jackson, is in some ways a collage of unforgettable images. Just as the main character, Susie Salmon, tries to capture her life with her film camera, Jackson tries to capture and tell the story using a series of images or moments.

That heroic moment when Susie saved her brother’s life. That giggly moment when Ray first talked to Susie. That scary moment when Mr. Harvey invited Susie to his den under the cornfields.

And then those images after Susie’s death. Each scene depicts a very fantastic scenery– from a clear lake to a vast flower field. Or a winter wonderland. Or an autumn retreat. You will stop in awe with every set piece and you will admire the CG glory of it all.

The movie is worth watching if just for these amazing pictures. Storywise, there is not too much backbone to support it. You will know from the start that the narrator has been murdered. You will know a few minutes later who the murderer is. Hence you will not be given a chance to wonder nor a plot point to be curious at.

One could almost see the futility of Susie’s journey. What’s her purpose of staying? Why doesn’t she move on? What does she want? You’ll soon realize that she just wants her murderer to pay for what he did although we were not shown any indication on the film. (Or maybe she just want to kiss Ray first. I don’t really know.)

What is amazing though is how the theme of the film summed up nicely everything that happened and how Jackson has translated this to the screen. Towards the end, we were shown what happened to the people who knew Susie after her death. Her parents have moved on and became stronger. Her little sister grew up and found her love. Her murderer died of an accident. In the ending Susie narrates that these are the lovely bones that had grown from her absence. Moments that happened because of her death.

This gives a perfect explanation to the saying “Death is just the beginning”. Well, death may be the end for one person but it is a fresh new start to everyone else.

I read somewhere that death gives a new perspective to life. Perhaps, the film just want to show that every moment in one’s life gains a new meaning when death is factored in. Susie’s death is trivial– we were not even shown any grim funeral. Yet what we saw, the reactions to her death, those small moments have big impacts. Even scenes before her death were put into perspective. As photographs, they serve as memories, mirrors to her life as it has been.

One could say, the film has no deep story. But what it manages to show successfully are the moments that had grown from this lack thereof. Sometimes, absence makes things better–the way the town’s sinkhole in the movie has in a way defined the town’s lifestyle. The lovely bones that had grown around an absence.

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