Berlinale 2024 | Gael Garcia Bernal explores mind vs body in sci-fi ‘Another End’

Picture a world where the departed could be brought back, not as ethereal spirits or digital echoes, but in flesh and blood—albeit borrowed—for a fleeting farewell. This is the haunting premise of “Another End,” the poignant science fiction film directed by Piero Messina, which made its impactful debut at the Berlin Film Festival on a captivating Saturday night.

Played by the enigmatic Gael Garcia Bernal, known for his roles in “Amores Perros,” and starring alongside “The Worst Person in the World” actress Renate Reinsve, this narrative dives deeply into the ethical dilemmas and emotional turbulences that such a powerful technology would engender. “Another End” takes place in a stark, grey cityscape defined by the cryptic company Aeterna. Here, doctors enveloped in white lab coats offer a controversial service: transplanting the consciousness of the departed into “hosts,” participants who have agreed, for a price, to share their bodies with the deceased.

Sal, portrayed by Bernal, finds himself at the precipice of a fateful decision when his sister Ebe, brought to life by the Oscar-nominated Berenice Bejo, implores him to resurrect his beloved Zoe, incarnated by Reinsve, in this unusual manner. Despite initial misgivings about the moral ramifications represented by such a service, Sal’s world is once again awash with vibrancy following Zoe’s return. However, the joy is short-lived, as Aeterna’s rigid regulations cap the time a soul can occupy its temporary vessel.

“It is a very romantic film that talks about loss. But it’s a fantastic movie. I am very proud of it,” Bernal shared with a sense of reverence while interacting with reporters on the red carpet prior to the premiere. The actor confided that engaging with the film’s premise altered his own views on existence. “In Western culture, we’ve so detached the body from the life of the person that I started to wonder like, no, it’s not so separate, and that really changed me in many ways,” he reflected at a press conference earlier that day.

The narrative extends beyond Sal and Zoe’s tale, weaving in the subplot of Juliette, played by Olivia Williams, whose heart-wrenching decision to bring back both her spouse and child is brought into the spotlight. Williams conveyed to journalists her personal interpretation of the premise as horrifying, one that prolongs anguish rather than providing solace. And yet, the agony of such a decision is palpable: “That’s the awful thing, if you have that choice, even if you know it’s a stupid choice, just five more minutes with that person” can be agonizingly difficult to refuse, Williams remarked, encapsulating the tormenting heart of “Another End.”

The film transcends its science fiction trappings to delve into the core of human experience—grief, love, and the profound attachment to memories. It stands as a testament to the inexorable pull of human connection, even in the face of the inevitable parting brought about by death. As with any profound narrative, it lingers long after the closing credits, prompting audience members to navigate their own internal landscapes of emotion and attachment.

“Another End” is not merely a visual journey but an introspective one, forcing viewers to confront their own philosophies concerning the interplay between life and the physical vessel we inhabit. Audiences are left to ponder if the opportunity to embrace a lost loved one once more, even under such extraordinary circumstances, is worth the potential heartache that may follow.

As the Berlinale continues to showcase world cinema that pushes boundaries and kindles discussion, “Another End” stands out as a cinematic exploration into the metaphysical. It is a striking reminder of the lengths we might go for one more moment with those we’ve lost and a profound commentary on the enduring nature of human bonds that transcend mere physicality.

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