This article reveals the explained plot and the detailed events in 2009 movie After.Life, directed by Agnieszka Wójtowicz-Vosloo, revealing its meaning, symbols and storyline. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.
After.Life is a 2009 horror/thriller film with very peculiar characteristics. Compared to the various similar films in which the viewer wants to discover a clear explanation that covers every detail and puts everything under a single logical thread, this film is specifically designed to let the viewer choose how to explain it. Because basically, there are two ways to interpret and see the movie, and both can hold up.
In this article, we will explain both points of view, placing the elements in favor of each position to make it solid.
The plot of After.Life explained
In the film, we witness a continuous dialogue between Anna, a young woman declared dead after a car accident, and Eliot, the owner of a funeral home who has the power to speak to the dead and help them accept the passage to the afterlife. Although this dynamic is explained at the film’s beginning, the plot leads the viewer to doubt this version: Anna can destroy the objects in the morgue. She appears to be able to make a phone call to her boyfriend, Paul. One of her students at her school sees her at the window. Eliot seems to worry that Anna may notice that she is actually breathing, fogging up the glass.
The film ends with Anna’s funeral, and we see her waking up and trying to get out of the coffin. Paul will have an accident, and we will find him in the morgue with Eliot, who is preparing him for the funeral. The film ends like this, and now it’s up to us to explain what we saw. Here are the two possible explanations.
The factual explanation of the film: Anna is alive
Although it seems an impossible explanation to justify, a number of elements make it plausible to assume that Anna is alive. And so are all the others that pass under Eliot’s hands.
According to this hypothesis, Eliot hunts for individuals who do not respect their own life enough, living passively and futile, not doing justice to the gift they have living. He lets the doctors declare them clinically dead and then keeps them for a few days in his mortuary, talking to them, then burying them alive.
How does he do all this?
He does that by arriving at the places where those individuals have accidents before the paramedics, and using a drug, Hydronium Bromide, to simulate death, letting the paramedics declare it officially. This way, he can spend a few days with those individuals before burying them. We assume that to do this, Eliot studies each of his subjects and prepares situations well to administer the drug before the doctors visit their bodies: a behavior similar to that of a serial killer, which technically, from this perspective, represents what Eliot really is. And this also implies that his funeral home is the only one in that area, and that the bodies are always brought to his studio very soon after being declared dead.
Why, instead of just killing them, he creates this situation and interacts with them for days as he prepares them for the funeral?
From his point of view, his mission is to give dignity to life. He says it to the boy Jack during the film: “I’m the only one who can see all these corpses. All they do is p**s and s**t. Doing nothing with their lives. I have to bury them all. I have no choice.” Under this interpretation, this would be the sadistic mission of a psychopath who kills all those he deems not worth living.
In doing so, however, he challenges his victims to choose life. In disadvantaged conditions, of course, because their victims are always under the influence of drugs and too weak to be lucid. And he actually seems more to want to convince them that they are dead rather than stimulate in them the desire to really live.
In the film’s finale, Eliot challenges Paul to go and rescue Anna, who may still be alive. He knows that Paul is drunk and will have an accident. He follows him, ready to inject the drug that will temporarily kill him. In Paul’s case, however, he has no intention of talking to him for days because Paul doesn’t trust Eliot and wouldn’t fall into his traps. So Eliot kills Paul, who appears to be in pain in the morgue. These would be evidence in favor of the theory that Paul was also alive, as was Anna.
It is a very unrealistic hypothesis, obviously, with elements that do not make it plausible in a real context. But being a film, it is a possible explanation of an unlikely but factual story that takes place in a movie. After.Life hasn’t explicitly explained to us what happened, so it’s still possible.
After.Life explained symbolically: Anna is dead
The symbolic explanation is the one that, more simply, considers the film as a horror, therefore able to present situations that seem real but are not, possibly placing them under a symbolic dimension. From this perspective, it is easy to consider Anna a dead girl who does not agree to abandon her life, and whose soul rebels against the idea of dying.
Eliot, in this way, is a person who talks to the souls of the dead. However, he seems to show a particular hatred towards humanity because he describes living beings as people who do not value life sufficiently. He challenges the dead to prove they really want to live, but from this perspective, it is an ungenerous challenge because the dead cannot come back to life anyway. This would save him from the accusation of the previous explanation of not offering victims a real chance to prove that they would choose life.
How do you explain the scenes in which Anna appears to be alive?
The scenes in which Anna destroys objects, makes the phone call, or fogs up her glass with her breath would therefore be the imaginative/symbolic part of the film: a resistance to accepting death represented so vehemently that it seems real. Breathing is apparent proof that Anna is alive, as the fact that Anna can throw objects or make phone calls. If we follow the symbolic explanation, we are observing what dead souls would do when they don’t accept death.
While he helps the souls to accept their death, Eliot comes into conflict with Paul and urges him to make a reckless gesture like driving while drunk. Therefore, this explanation does not represent Eliot as a good character: Eliot is a person who hates humanity and their way of not doing justice to life; he believes that these individuals should die. In fact, he does not help them choose life, but he “stops wasting time” and merely convinces them that they are dead. And he injects a compound that relaxes the muscles to calm them down when they get too excited.
After.Life explained: what is the truth?
We can peacefully say that the viewer must choose the explanation. The director has never given clear indications on which one is possibly more valid than the other, and indeed she emphasized the fact that the public is generally divided equally between the two options. Do you prefer the more factually improbable version, which puts everything under a plausible perspective, or the more “boring” one, which implies that you have simply seen a horror film with symbolic situations?
The title of the film is not Afterlife, but After.Life, with punctuation between the two words. It might really be the afterlife, or it might not be.