After Life (Trilogy 3)

Director: Lucas Belvaux

France-Belgium| 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 123 mins.

If On the Run was Belvaux’s Jean-Pierre Melville film, An Amazing Couple his Francis Veber, then this is his Ken Loach. The camera’s close-in, the performances committed and tremendously raw in what is certainly the most emotive part of the series. So far we’ve learned the gist about Dominique Blanc’s troubled Agns and her secret reliance on morphine to get her through life as a teacher, so what we get here is the fuller story on her relationship with her police detective partner Pascal (Gilbert Melki), whose towering devotion extends to keeping her steadily supplied. His connection is the local drugs baron, who goes way back with Belvaux’s escaped terrorist Bruno and wants him dead. He’s pressurising Pascal, not just to collar the fugitive but to take him out entirely-and until then, no bags of white powder for Agnes.
The ensuing drama of dependence and responsibility, faith and betrayal, is agonisingly persuasive and deeply compassionate. A fine achievement, to be sure, but the manner in which the storyline inscribes a host of fruitful connections with the other two films is not only a monument of labyrinthine narrative construction, but also a massive act of humane empathy. The intersections of suspense, comedy and drama across the three films are merely skeletal indications of a wider world of love and pain and the whole damn thing lying beyond-a parallel fictional universe no less. And it’s each viewer’s own imaginative investment in this broader span which makes The Trilogy triumphantly more than the sum of its individually impressive parts. See it and blur the line between watching and participating in a genuine movie event.
‘I started out to make a trilogy of films, but in the end I made four. The fourth film is the one each viewer constructs in their mind as they piece together the other three. And every viewer makes a different movie!’-Lucas Belvaux
In which order should you see them?
In theory, the structure of The Trilogy allows the films to be seen in any order, but some combinations work better than others. The tough crime drama On the Run makes a forceful introduction, and is probably the best way to start, although in France the frolicsome comedy. An Amazing Couple was actually released first. Either way, the intimate drug-themed drama After Life is clearly intended as the series finale and makes by far the most satisfying conclusion. All in all, The Trilogy is one of the year’s most remarkable achievements in world cinema.

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