This strange spirit began with Paul Haggis's Crash, coursed through Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel, and is currently expressed in Clint Eastwood's latest film, Hereafter. This spirit imagines globalization as a kind of catastrophe, a horrific accident, a tremendous explosion, a massive crash that unites the disparate and desperate parts of a networked, interconnected, postnational, godless humanity. Globalization is not about progress or the realization of a utopia, but mass confusion and chaos.
Hereafter begins with a natural catastrophe, a tsunami inspired by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Tourists on a tropical island are suddenly running for their lives. One of these tourists is a French TV journalist played by Cécile de France. The wave hits the city, fills the streets, lifts and carries away the journalist, other people, cars, and furniture. Something hard strikes her head, she sinks, she almost dies, she sees the hereafter. She returns to the here. Her life is forever changed.
The movie's story, which was written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), also involves a psychic in San Francisco, a melancholy Matt Damon. This psychic is supposed to be the real deal; he can communicate with the dead. When he touches your hand, his head gets excited with flashes, human forms, magic lights—and all of this connects him, modemlike, to the land of the dead. The third part of the story concerns twins (Frankie and George McLaren) who live in London with a drug-addled mother. One of the twins is killed in a car accident. The other is almost killed in a terrorist action. Everyone in the film is lost. Everyone drifts around in a daze—neither Islam nor Christianity can make any sense of life, death, and the dangerously globalized world they live in. Eastwood turns to paganism for solutions. But this view of death is as bad as the ones presented by the big religions.
The pagan hereafter, which is bright lights and ghostly figures, is all about human beings. Where are the other animals in this hereafter? Humans are animals, dogs are animals, horses are animals—that's this world. Why is the afterworld unlike this world? Indeed, the gene that helps form the human heart, the "tinman gene," is also found in flies. We are not biologically special in any way. So if there is a hereafter as imagined by Eastwood's neopaganism, then it has got to have lots and lots of flies in it—there are more fly souls than human souls. Also, maybe these flies want to communicate something to a psychic, buzz something from the hereafter to the here. Eastwood's age is beginning to show.