Life After Life
(Zhi fan ye mao)
Zhang Li, Zhang Mingjun, Wang Jishan,
Produced by Jia Zhangke, this evocative and poetic debut depicts a rapidly disappearing way of life with a gorgeous visual sensibility and subtly wry humor. Mingchun and his bored young son Leilei live in a remote Chinese farming village scheduled to be razed. One day, the two are out collecting firewood, and without explanation Leilei is matter-of-factly possessed by the ghost of Mingchun's wife. The ghost has one thing on her mind—the replanting of a beloved tree before it is swept away by bulldozers in the name of modernization. As she says, "This tree knows who we are." In addition to this plea, she draws attention to other ghosts in their midst, some of them in surprising guises. So Life After Life is a ghost story, but one that is more interested in metaphysics and subtle humor than clanging chains and rattling windows. Coupling a desaturated palette of browns and grays with surprising images that feature goats stuck in trees or a giant boulder that moves sideways, Zhang's film has a lyrical sensibility that sits comfortably alongside its criticism of a society that is laying waste to a particular kind of life.