DPLife’s Favorite Movies about the Afterlife
Few people can resist the lure of a movie night. We might enjoy basic comedies, thrilling adventures or swoon-worthy love stories, but other nights we yearn for something more haunting – the sort of tale where it’s difficult to discern fact from fable. Films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity capitalize on our desire to explore the things we fear.
Our biggest fear of all? Death.
Father Moon once said, “Death means to be born in God’s love. In the human world, people make a fuss, saying, “Oh, I am dying!” But isn’t death a moment to welcome? Isn’t this going through the path of death actually a second birth?”
So, what really happens when we die? Is it necessary to die before we can experience the spiritual world? While no single film can perfectly answer all these questions, here are a few films which we think, in different ways, get it right.
First up, our Top Three:
This Life Creates the Next
The temptation to do what we want right now can be intense. We might consider how the consequences of our actions will affect our lives, but if there is a life beyond this one, what repercussions might our actions have then?
Father Moon explains, “We should live our earthly lives as the time to prepare ourselves for the eternal world. What happens to freshwater fish when they are placed in salt water? They suffocate. If the physical world and spirit world were connected suddenly, you would end up dead like a fresh-water fish in salt water. How would you breathe in that situation? Salmon can gradually get accustomed to the change as they migrate from salt water up into fresh water. The salmon progress in stages in order to minimize the pain of transition.”
Just as salmon adjust themselves as they migrate, it is wise for us to adjust ourselves from living focused on earthly concerns to living with Heaven in mind.
This idea is well expressed in Heart and Souls, where a closed-hearted businessman named Thomas is reunited with his guardian angels, four souls who had been killed during a bus accident on the night of his birth. Each with something to rectify before they ascend, the four spirits work together with Thomas to complete their unfinished business, enabling all five to grow. The film serves as a cogent reminder that what we do here on Earth matters. Life is a shared experience, with shared results.
Relating With the Beyond
In The Book of Life, Manolo would rather make music than follow the tradition of his forefathers, while Joaquin wishes to avenge his father’s death; both young men fall in love with their courageous friend Maria. Meanwhile, the two godly rulers of the underworld, La Muerte and Xibalba, gamble dominion over each other’s lands as each bets on the outcome of the love triangle.
This film beautifully illustrates the Mesoamerican culture and tradition of the afterlife, featuring the holiday La Dia de las Muertas. What’s remarkable here is how the society as a whole is refreshingly unafraid of death. They know that dying does not mean the end, an idea that we Unificationists share. Remembrance and veneration of one’s lineage is encouraged, as shown by the joyous continued life of those in the Land of the Remembered and the tender kinship shared between the living and the dead.
When people we love pass on, we yearn to find ways of reconnecting with them that are concrete, not merely conceptual. After some time, we find that the best way to perpetuate all their life stood for is to, through our own lives, give them the best possible legacy. Through this, though they may not be tangibly present, the best things about them are as alive as ever.
We Enter Heaven as Families
Father Moon shares that, “Heaven a place where, if the father were to enter, the mother should also enter, and if the parents were to enter, their children should also enter. Both the mother and father should enter heaven together; if the father entered heaven and the mother went to hell, could such a place be called heaven?”
The latter situation is precisely what occurs in the acclaimed drama What Dreams May Come. After mourning the loss of his two children, Chris Nielson dies unexpectedly. As he acclimates to the beauty and freedom of spiritual living, Chris learns that his wife has committed suicide and was placed in a spirit realm where all remain lost in the their own hopelessness – a fate Chris is determined to save her from.
This film eloquently expresses that we cannot feel complete if our families are not okay. As true as this sentiment is during our earthly lives, just imagine how much more acute it must be in the spirit world! Deep down, we all want that sense of unity and togetherness, just as God wants those same things with us.
The 1990 classic Ghost includes a much-loved example of love transcending universes, but also a hilarious performance by Whoopi Goldberg as someone more spiritual than they thought.
The Sixth Sense is an evocative reminder of the pain some spiritually open people experience, and the necessity of taking such cries for help seriously.
Check out Heaven Is For Real for an exploration on how awareness of the spirit world can test the faith of a community.
Defending Your Life humorously underscores the idea of our life being preparation for what is to come.
The recent hit If I Stay hangs in the balance between life and death, where a talented young woman must decide if her life is worth continuing. (Spoiler: it always is.)
Whether we firmly believe in a spiritual world, or prefer to focus on building heaven right here on earth, the ideas championed in these films are worth applying into our lives. When we choose to use our lives fully, learning as much about love as possible and sharing the best we have with each of our relationships, we create a life we love, and one which we can be proud of when the time comes to leave it behind.