What is the world?
What is this thing called life?
What is this decay called Death?
Why do we bother? Why do we go on living? Why do we keep on dying?
Premier Automne by Carlos De Carvalho & Aude Danset touch on themes very dear and close to my heart and brain. Watching this, it comforts me. It feels like home, like the inside of my chest and skull. And then there’s the quietness of this film, the silence.
It’s probably clear to those who read this almost weekly column how attached to silence I am, how I think film should be without words, should use only visual and emotional and physical and musical languages to convey their story. Premier Automne does this brilliantly. There’s so much simple worldbuilding being done here too, and it makes the world both clearly stated but invites us in to build it with the characters.
What is this world? Why is this world? Who are these children? Why are these children doing what they do? What is this transition between life and Death, between bones and fur, between terror and affection?
And it’s unsettling, the way Death chases her and we want to know why. We don’t understand that this boy brings Death and winter with him. They don’t understand the danger they pose to one another until she follows him back, bringing life with her, washing away Death. And though they hold hands gently, though they’ve maybe searched centuries for another to share Time with, they must stay apart, a transient border between life and Death.
And I wonder. I wonder often.
I wonder why we’ve split Death and life, why we’re so obsessed with opposites, with binary view, with separation. What is there’s something simpler? I wonder about why we fear Death and cling to life, about why some run towards Death and flee life, and I wonder most often why we view either one as good or bad, as right or wrong, as positive or negative, because they all feel the same to me.
Now, I’ve never physically died, so I maybe have no right to discuss what Death is, but I’m sort of obsessed with Death and dying.
I have no intention of dying soon and I’d prefer not to, but I think it’s silly to look at Death as the antithesis of life, or its enemy.
Here, these children find harmony. They find peace, and Death and life are all one. We’re all made of energy. Everything we’ve ever touched or seen or smelt or tasted or heard is just energy. It’s beautiful and chaotic and impossible, but it’s all the same thing. Life and Death are different states of energy. The only difference between a child growing and a child dying is the flow of energy. Is it in or out? Is life endothermic and Death exothermic?
And if you think a bit grander, if you think about entropy [the word, not here, this site], then isn’t everything barrelling towards nonexistence? The heat Death of the universe. So if we’re accelerating towards that even as we live, even as we live gorgeously, recklessly, suicidally, then what’s the point of separation?
Death and life are siblings walking hand in hand through a forest of flux, and we are the leaves, the dogs in constant states of transition. We’re always dying and we’re always living. The planet has a cycle of life and Death, and we’re racing towards a cycle of annihilation, which will lead to a rebirth. We grew from the dust of a thousand thousand species who died so we could some day live on the rind of this molten rock spinning in perfect rotation round a gaseous monster vomiting energy and matter unrelentingly into the nothingness of this galaxy.
So why are we obsessed with life?
Why are we obsessed with Death’s eradication?
Perhaps the funniest thing about our obsession with life and the health of the human species is the dramatic cost it has on the species around us, who sustain us.
But maybe that’s not actually funny.
All creatures must die. All species must die. All creatures and species will die. All that we have now is Time, and Time is rarely on our side. Death is always present, always waiting, and so why fear it? Why not take it in our hands and walk with it. Embrace its coldness while we bask in the sunshine of our fading days?
What is life without Death and what is Death without life? The difference between them is razor thin but seemingly cosmically vast. But I don’t know if that’s really how we should think about these aspects of existence.
There are so many questions Premier Automne fills me with. It’s a film like I’ve never really seen. The animation is beautiful, the score is perfect, and it’s both unsettling and comforting to me. I really do love this animation and the direction. The silence, the beauty, the movement.
And so fall in love with this film today. And wonder:
What is this world these characters live in? What is the life they lead?
How is this a mirror for us? What can we learn from these two children? From life and Death?
That’s the question you should carry inside you today as you enjoy the summer sun.
And remember that Death is not the end. It’s just the start of something else.