The Films & The Feelings: Our Past Lives

The Films & The Feelings: Our Past Lives

I wanted to say a few words about Celine Song's 'Past Lives' before 2024 comes, however, some films need their time to bloom inside you, and that's what this film did to me.

One of the most successfull debuts of the recent cinematic history was 2022's Aftersun by Charlotte Wells, a film that stuck with me forever. I didn't expect to be amazed by another debut so soon, with the same kind of effect. Despite the fact that both Aftersun and Past Lives are two of the most well-known 2020's debut films directed by women, they have their own unique storytelling. This may seem obvious, however both Charlotte Wells and Celine Song are their own source of inspiration for their films. You can find a full dedicated reading about Aftersun here, as I go back to this reading about Celine Song's Past Lives.

Past Lives feels like a movie that could have happened to anyone. Anyone that grew up being an introvert with a small circle of friends, or maybe just one friend - the one with whom you can share anything. Anyone who may feel that they don't belong in just one place in the world. Anyone who feels that nostalgia is as important as moving on.

 Past Lives (2023) dir. Celine Song

Past Lives is a story about Nora and Hae Sung. In Korea, Na Young and Hae Sung are schoolmates and close friends. They used to walk home together after school, playing together and teasing one another. When Na Young relocates to Canada and later to New York with her parents, Hae Sung stays in Korea, pursues a career in engineering, completes a brief military service, and secures a job. 

Meanwhile, in New York, Na changes her name into Nora, establishing herself as a playwright trying to cope with her new life chapter. Despite their long distance, they maintain periodic contact through video chats, reminiscing about their past and discussing various topics. Hae expresses a strong desire to meet Nora and eventually visits her in New York, spending some time with Nora and Arthur, her husband. 

Past Lives (2023) dir. Celine Song

Past Lives is a story about In-Yun. In-Yun is a Korean concept/conviction/belief that the connections between individuals in the present life are a result of past-life interactions or close encounters. This idea proposes that certain meetings are not merely coincidental, but rather deliberate cosmic interventions—a way for the universe to signify the importance of a particular person in your life's journey. 

Thoughout the film, In-Yun feels like the only explanation of Nora and Hae Sung's encounters in life, making as feel that way as well. However, life happens besides concepts, and this is neither a story about ordinary love affaires made of stardust, nor a tragic love triangle. 

Past Lives (2023) dir. Celine Song

Past Lives is a film about past, present and future. Endless possibilities of "what could have been" spinning around the globe of all our possible self-versions throughout our lifetime. Do we make the correct decisions? Do "correct decisions" really exist? Celine Song manages to depict one of the most heartful stories about our need for connection in a visually perfect yet full humane and realistic film.

Equal measures of comfortable silences, loving eye-contacts and couple of laughs are able to make you reflect on your own decisions, encounters, memories and past lives. The decision is always yours. 

Main Photo Credits: Past Lives (2023) dir. Celine Song | via A24
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