19. July 2015 · Comments Off on “So you’re just the thing we need?” – Canadian sensibility in The Sweet Hereafter · Categories: Film-related, Visible Cinema · Tags: , , ,

Ottawa Indie Fest guest blogger Matt Joyce launches his new series Visible Cinema today with an essay on Atom Egoyan‘s The Sweet Hereafter.  The film won 3 awards at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival including The Grand Prix.  Egoyan was recently a guest on  CPAC’s series Ken Rockburn Presents.


“So you’re just the thing we need?” – Canadian sensibility in The Sweet Hereafter
mattby Matt Joyce

In Atom Egoyan’s film, The Sweet Hereafter (1997), we see how tensions between different takes on reality come to define us as individuals and as a Canadian community. This film explores the ways in which we all have stories that control us and drive us to seek both higher meaning and resolution for our pain. The Sweet Hereafter deals with the recurring issue of the invasion of technology into small-scale human lives and how the inhuman side of an increasingly fast paced lifestyle can overpower our sense of truth. This theme is channeled through the outward, legalistic thinking and motivation of Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm) contrasted against the inward, spiritual thinking of Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley), who over time comes to seem like the vision and voice of Canadian cinema itself.

The people of a small town in British Columbia are all affected by a tragic bus accident in which their children are lost. A big city lawyer haunted by his own estranged relationship to his only daughter, who fights with him continually by cell phone, comes to persuade the distraught families to sue for compensation, only to find himself confronted with unpredictable ways of handling loss, anger, and issues of comfort and control. Mr. Stevens underestimates everybody; he thinks they can be manipulated and bought. However as Canadians we do not automatically think there is a conspiracy or some glitch in the system responsible and therefore suable for our pain. As Canadians we are grounded in the importance of our town, the strength of our community, the beauty of our rivers and mountains, and the inner peace we receive from our surroundings; hence the almost dream-like feel of this B.C. landscape where the people suffer what everyone suffers but remain contented, comforted by the help of their neighbours. Lawyers, legal solutions and cell phones cannot pinpoint what is at the heart of these people. More »