Filmmaker delves into death in feature-length debut

Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo is fascinated with death.

In order to die, one must live, and the more interesting the life, the more fascinating the death — all of which is explored in her new film “After.Life.”

“It’s about how difficult it is to die if you haven’t lived a fulfilling life,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo said of her film in a phone interview with The State Press.

“After.Life,” both written and directed Wojtowicz-Vosloo, follows the life and after life of Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci).

“Anna is a woman who is sleepwalking through life, and she’s not strong enough to do anything about it, which I think is pretty common,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo said.

After getting into a fight with her boyfriend, Paul (Justin Long), Anna speeds off in her car, eventually getting into an accident before waking up in a funeral home. Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), the funeral home’s director, tells her that she’s dead, but she refuses to believe it, leaving the question of her vitals a mystery to be solved.

Elliot, the funeral director who holds all the secrets, has very strong convictions about life and death.

“He believes that most people go through life without really living life,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo said.

After her award-winning short film “Pâté,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo was projected to be the next big thing in Hollywood. This, combined with an intriguing script, was how the first-time feature-length director was able to snag such well-known actors to star in her film.

The script was good, but as is often the case with Hollywood, that meant very little.

“With this particular script, we had lots of interest from major studios and many of them wanted me to dumb it down,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo said.

The answer to whether Anna is dead or not is only discoverable through paying attention to clues during the film. No concrete answer is given — something Wojtowicz-Vosloo did on purpose.

“From the beginning of the project, I purposely wanted to keep that discussion going. Obviously, it would have been really easy to just do a typical paint-by-numbers ending,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo said. “I wanted to be respectful to the viewer and give them that space for their own interpretation because it’s such a personal subject to begin with. I definitely made it harder for myself, but I like challenges and I think cinema should push the envelope a little.”

Though the filmmaker’s interpretation is definitive, she was enthralled to hear others’ reactions to the film.

“When I hear people’s interpretations of the movie, I’m fascinated by it — I think every filmmaker is. When you make a movie and then hear how people read certain things or misread certain things,” Wojtowicz-Vosloo said. “The most satisfying thing is when they add so much more to it, when a certain thing invokes a much deeper interpretation than what you thought about when you were making the film.”

It’s not an easy film — there is thinking involved and discussion to be had.

“It’s good when a script polarizes the audience — you’re causing a reaction,” said Wojtowicz-Vosloo. “It’s harder, absolutely, but it’s important to make scripts like that because that’s the only way you will keep the art form interesting.”

“After.Life” will be released in five Valley theatres on April 9.

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu


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