Who is going to care about you, after you are dead? Cheery thought to ponder, as you eat your cereal, ride the bus, or lay down your head to sleep. You might not even be certain what will happen to you, after you are dead. But your loved ones will remain in the land of the living. Are they going to honour your memory, or forget you entirely?
Released on DVD,Still Life is a stuffy yet intriguing British drama by writer-director Uberto Pasolini, who produced The Full Monty. Much different to that crowd-pleaser about steel-workers turned strippers, downbeat Still Life centres on one introverted bloke and his unusual job. Working for a London council, John (Eddie Marsan) tries to track down relatives of deceased people who died alone. Often, he doesn’t locate anyone. Or if he does, and they don’t care. John tends to go above and beyond the call of duty, arranging intimate funerals – even when no-one is going to show up.
After John is made redundant – the cost of compassion doesn’t turn a profit – he doggedly follows up one last cold case. This brings him to lovely Kelly (Downtown Abbey‘s Joanne Froggatt) but doesn’t bring Still Life out of its polite rut. Such a novel and sobering employee as John, should have provided plenty of dramatic puff. But Pasolini only hints at the ‘still life’ John leads, depriving us of deeper contrast with the worthy job he so diligently performs.
While more predictable and straight-forward than promised by its poignant premise, Still Life will get you thinking. Particularly, about how you will be remembered when you are gone. John’s zeal for dignifying every single life he meets through their death, might match your desire to be well thought of. But why is John bothering? No-one in Still Life has any firm conviction about an afterlife, suggesting that they believe this life is all there is. If that is the case, and the dead are lifeless corpses rolling off the conveyor belt of pointless existence, what’s the big deal about a meaningful send-off? Why go to the trouble of honouring their life lived?
Many think this is all there is, yet hate the idea of life being a meaningless parade of evolved moments. Quite the tension. Still Life‘s final scene is a last-minute effort to offer spiritual weight to John’s job. While laughable for its cheesy composition, this scene suggests that remembering the dead does affect those in the grave. Confusion reigns, as viewers try to work out whether Still Life is saying there is, or is not, life after death. And whether that has any bearing upon honouring the memory of the deceased.
Greater clarity emerges, by focusing upon the remembrance of someone who beat death, heralded an afterlife and proved there’s more to life than, um, this life. Remember what the Lord’s Supper is about? The simple meal of bread and wine is a memorial to Jesus Christ, because ‘as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). The enormity of Jesus’ return to our world is wrapped up in his death and resurrection. The Lord’s Supper trumpets the meaning of these events, and point to where honour can be found in this life and the next. Remember that.