In September I am heading to Turkey to teach English for nine months. Before then, my girlfriend – Jen – and I have been trying to get through a huge, and growing, bucket list of activities we have. The activities range from the mundane – getting lahmacun, a type of Turkish food – to the intense – visiting Australia. Yesterday, we managed to watch a movie on our list, Last Life in the Universe.
I have been told multiple times that the best stories are always those that, although not necessarily the most engaging at the moment, can be dwelled while always providing new insights. I do not want to make a blanket generalization, but I feel as if this type of cinema is extremely common in Asia. My favorite film Oldboy, for example, is Korean; I have stayed up to dawn multiple nights after seeing that movie with friends discussing all of it’s intricacies.
Although Last Life in the Universe was not immediately engaging, and indeed did drag a little at times, I can not stop thinking about its overall message. The movie centers around Kenji, a Japanese ex-pat living in Bangkok, who is half-heartedly suicidal and Noi, a Thai woman who witnesses her sister die. The two characters eventually become involved, and the movie follows the development of Kenji’s emotional condition.
The way the relationship develops and is portrayed is beautiful and artistic; however, that is not the element of the movie that really captured my interest. Instead, what I fell in love with was Kenji’s tired suicide attempts. It is established in the first scene of the movie that Kenji is not truly suicidal, but instead just tired of the annoyances of the modern world. With this in mind, the suicide attempts reminded me of the French saying l’appel du vide, which translates as ‘the call of the void.’
L’appel du vide corresponds to those feelings that, I hope I’m not alone in saying, we all experience when looking from a great height or being on a bridge. It is the subtle feeling of being interested in jumping – not because we are upset, but rather because it is the unconscious longing to see what would happen. Kenji embodies this perfectly. He is alone and out of place in Bangkok, and as such, is drawn to the ideas of the sharp contrast that suicide provides.
The movie is much more than just this, and a sharp line of dark subtle humor manages to run throughout, while simultaneously being played off with much more light-hearted elements. Overall, Last Life in the Universe is beautiful and is continuing to reverberate through my mind over a day later. This movie, I say, is worthwhile.