If we talked about life and death, as well as the meaning of human existence, we would go into much deeper and more demanding topics. The fact is that man is a transient being and that there is only one inevitable end of our life journey, and whether that is the final end of our existence as a spiritual being remains a phenomenon that many philosophical theories, religions and sciences try to interpret. The very thought of death is frightening and repulsive, but it is the awareness of death that encourages a quality, meaningful and fulfilled life.
It is difficult to write about that, mostly because I do not intend to answer you from the film. On the contrary, you should not miss this great movie! Namely, the Italian director and screenwriter Uberto Pasolini will confront you with reality and the inevitable, without throwing you into depression and forcing you to stop watching. However, after watching the film, you will ask yourself some questions that you may not have. Regardless of the topic it deals with, the film leaves the viewer in a very pleasant mood, which Pasolini achieved primarily with his intelligent script and characterization of the main character.
Still Life is actually a tragicomedy about the life and death of lonely people. Loneliness is a ubiquitous phenomenon here and we find it in every moment, in every frame. The store is located in a gloomy London district. John May (Eddie Marsan) works in a small funeral home. His task is to take care of the funerals of deceased people who were left alone for life. May is extremely dedicated to his work and very thorough, and his only priority is to provide a dignified funeral for the deceased.
From the moment he comes to the house of the deceased, May collects as much evidence as possible about the person in order to find out something about him. He takes photographs, interrogates acquaintances of the deceased and on that basis writes a farewell to the deceased, which the priest will read at the funeral. May approaches each of his clients individually, so he pays great attention to the selection of the coffin, but also to the funeral ritual, depending on the faith of the deceased. He tries his best to gather family members, friends and acquaintances of the deceased, but he often encounters negative answers, so he is usually the only one who mourns at funerals.
May’s life is lonely and completely dedicated to work. His apartment is impersonal and cold, the kitchen is immaculately clean. The only food he eats is canned food, so his neatly served plate looks like it will serve a cat. In the early evening, he opens a photo album with photos of all the clients he has buried in twenty years of work, and then continues to paste photos of new clients. We rarely see a smile on his face, but we can almost always feel his empathy for the environment, as well as great respect for each person. He does not condemn, does not discriminate and wants to provide everyone with a simple and frequent funeral, for which he invests most of his time, but also the company’s money.
The company led by Mr. Prachet decides that this way of doing business is very inefficient and does not see the meaning of funerals as a justification for losing so much money and time when cremation is much cheaper (cheaper in this case, like collecting mortal remains in ordinary plastic bottles and pouring dozens them into one pit). May was eventually fired, but also allowed to work on his latest case at his own expense. The late Billy Stoke, a former convict, will take May into a new, greatest adventure of his life, and the last minutes of the film will cause a real boom of emotions in you, due to which the fact that May finally fulfilled the purpose of his life will be the only comforting thought.
British actor Eddie Marsan is a master and it is amazing how much his appearance, facial expressions, gives the character of John May gentleness and sympathy that simply buys you from the first moments when you see him. The more you get to know May, the more you sympathize with him and hope that at some point he will really feel the happiness he deserves. One part of me hoped the film would end with his wide smile on his face, but the other part of me doubted some shock moment at the least expected moment. His every look, tone of speech and demeanor speaks more than a thousand words. Eddie Marsan really makes you experience the character completely and the emotions that will inspire you are the biggest and most important moment of this film.
With the first shots, Pasolini introduces us to the world of silence, and the ambience of a typical English landscape only further emphasizes the gloomy and melancholic note of the film, which perfectly outlines the personality of the main character, as well as the main motif. Emptiness is everywhere and at every moment a few details indicate a symptom of loneliness.