Trilogy 1: After the Life
Après la vie
review by Nicholas Schrager, 5 December 2003  

After the Life (Après la vie), the lethargic conclusion to Lucas Belvaux’s The Trilogy, is a melodrama about unhealthy co-dependents Pascal (Gilbert Melki) and his morphine-dependent wife Agnès (Dominique Blanc). Like the series’ predecessors, Belvaux’s portrait of this married couple’s self-destructive behavior exudes a dreary turgidness, but here such humorlessness is appropriately grafted onto a story of quiet desperation and frenzied neediness. Regrettably, this final episode also shares many of the trilogy’s drab protagonists as well as Belvaux’s trademark sloppy storytelling and lack of cinematographic creativity.

Pascal is a crooked cop with good intentions who, in order to keep his beloved wife from suffering from withdrawal, surreptitiously uses his police connections in the criminal underworld to buy her drugs. When his primary supplier is killed, Pascal is blackmailed by the local crime boss to kill escaped terrorist Bruno (the protagonist of On the Run, and played by director Belvaux himself) in exchange for future morphine deliveries. Faced with a moral dilemma – kill a criminal in cold blood for his wife’s narcotics, or alienate his spouse by not providing her with illegal and deadly sustenance – Pascal instead decides (á la An Amazing Couple) to occupy himself with trailing the husband of a beautiful woman (Ornella Muti’s Cécile) that he has fallen in love with. 

More so than in the previous two films, After the Life spends an inordinate amount of time revisiting scenes from the trilogy’s previous episodes, presumably in an attempt to shed new light on Pascal and Agnès’ actions – the filmmaker has gone on record stating that he hopes watching all three films will create “a fourth, virtual film that no one will have seen but that everyone will remember. A sort of dream film.” But discovering that Pascal is not a buffoon or a psycho (as the two previous films led one to believe) but is, in fact, a distraught loyal husband isn’t enough of a revelation to satisfy the demands of a two-hour film. Belvaux fills in plot holes from one film with revelations from another, but this structural intertwining reeks of shallow gimmickry and does nothing to remedy the trilogy’s primary failing: its failure to present a single engaging character. Learning new things about Pascal and Agnès may make them more complex, but depth of character alone doesn’t adequately compensate for the fact that they’re still unbearably tiresome, uncharismatic losers.

Belvaux is most adept at creating an atmosphere of uneasy oppressiveness, and thus After the Life, since it relies on taking its characters’ misery extremely seriously, is the most tolerable of The Trilogy’s entries. However, given how inextricably its story is linked with both On the Run and An Amazing Couple, the irony is that it is also the least accessible as a stand-alone cinematic experience; to fully appreciate its (admittedly limited) achievements, one must first slog through the filmmaker’s yawn-inducing initial two installments. Given the overwhelming pointlessness of Belvaux’s The Trilogy, however, one can hardly say that such modest rewards are worth the effort.

Written and
Directed by:

Lucas Belvaux

Catherine Frot
Lucas Belvaux
Dominique Blanc
Ornella Muti
Gilbert Melki
Yves Claessens
Olivier Darimont
Patrick Descamps
Christine Henkart
Herve Livet
Alexis Tomassian

NR - Not Rated
This film has not
been rated..






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