Bye Barbie! 'Past Lives' is the Best Thing that’s Happened to Cinema All Year | Opinions | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Bye Barbie! ‘Past Lives’ is the Best Thing that’s Happened to Cinema All Year

2023 has been a great year for cinema thus far with the release of multi-million-dollar blockbusters such as Oppenheimer, Barbie, and Super Mario Bros. However, there’s an independent film released by A24 that premiered at Sundance early this year that has managed to truly stand out and captivate critics and audiences alike: Past Lives.

Past Lives is the directorial debut of South Korean-Canadian playwright Celine Song, which has been hailed as the best film of the year. This magnum opus has effortlessly captured the hearts of audience-goers everywhere. Let’s take a deep dive into the story and the aspects of what made its unparalleled storytelling, compelling characters, and cinematic visuals unequivocally the best thing to happen to cinema this year.

Bye Barbie! 'Past Lives' is the Best Thing that’s Happened to Cinema All Year | Opinions | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Of Lost Chances and New Beginnings

Past Lives doesn’t fit the conventions of your typical love story. Rather, it’s a narrative centered around two childhood sweethearts whose different paths hindered them from building a shared future. After Nora’s family emigrated abroad, she lost contact with her best friend Hae Sung, who stayed in Korea all his life.

Twelve years later, Hae Sung started having thoughts about Nora and their friendship that had such a huge impact on his life at a young age but was cut short. He eventually reconnected with her on social media and visited her in New York where they got to make up for the lost time.

This film is a poignant story that tugs at your heartstrings on an unprecedented level because it depicts the reality and complexities of navigating adult relationships from a healthy and mature perspective that we seldom see on the big screen.

This kind of narrative offers a refreshing take on the typical boy-meets-girl formula as it examines the nuances of human connections from a place of respect, love, and understanding despite the circumstances that pulled them apart.

Past Lives remarkably explored universal themes in relation to identity, relationships, fate, and destiny that allows us to examine our own lives and the relationships we had in the past and present that shaped who we are today.

At the heart of the film is its outstanding character development. One of the reasons why the characters, both lead and supporting, are exceptionally compelling and relatable is because Song pulled from her real-life experiences and the people she knew inside out. Their idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, and backstory contribute to their authenticity, enabling us to develop a more profound connection and empathy towards them and their journey.

Impeccable Cinematography

Furthermore, Song’s impeccable eye for detail and visual aesthetics evoked emotions that transcend the need for verbal expression. Together with her cinematographer, Shabier Kirchner, they elevated the tenderness, tension, and stakes of every scene through shot compositions, framing, lighting and fusion of colors, allowing us to go through a whirlwind of emotions as well as understand the characters’ emotional state on a deeper level.

Song expounded in detail on the collaborative process of how she and Kirchner developed a camera movement that effectively conveyed the emotions of longing and happiness in the scene where Nora and Hae Sung reconnect in New York after years of separation. Watching the scene with this knowledge in mind, you realize how ingenious they are by using an artistic device that elicited the complex emotions that words or basic camera angles alone could not capture with the same impact.

Makes You Face Yourself

Aside from nailing every cinematic element, what truly makes it an extraordinary film is the way it makes us introspective about our own relationships and the people that weave in and out of our lives through the years. It imparts a powerful message about fate and destiny, or In-Yun in Korean, which makes us look at chance encounters, missed opportunities, and failed relationships as integral to our journey toward achieving our highest potential and the best versions of ourselves. In the midst of life’s chaos, Song transforms these bittersweet moments into a source of hope and heartwarming tranquility.

Celine Song’s Past Lives has left an indelible mark for its profound storytelling, reminding us of the transformative power of cinema to inspire as well as help us better understand ourselves and the human condition. This directorial debut will go down in the history of modern cinema and will hopefully serve as a reminder that your own unique story or experiences is your superpower, and they deserve to be seen and heard no matter what.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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