This Way Up by Smith & Foulkes is an Academy Award nominated short film. Too few of these are readily available to the public.
Anyrate, we follow two men trying to simply bury a coffin, an action that’s far more difficult than anticipated. It’s absurd and slapstick and just good black comedy, turning something essentially horrifying into a surprisingly funny film about completing a task.
THere are moments I laughed aloud, like when they need to turn the coffin to get it through some brambles, or when they toss the body into the street to try and hitch a ride. It reminds me of the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges or any of the great silent comedians from a century ago, but combined with this Coen style black comedy that makes it feel alive and vibrant and just awesome.
And then the surrealism jumps in with a song and dance routine and I can’t look away.
I really don’t have a lot to say about this. I don’t think there’s some deeper meaning to be gleaned from it, and it doesn’t reflect the way I feel about Death [but, really, this isn’t about Death or dying], It’s just a very funny little film that takes place during, perhaps, the least funny moment of your life, which only compounds the humor.
The satisfaction they gain at the end, and how upbeat and proud that song is at the end–it’s just perfect.
I love this film. The animation is beautiful and carries that cold, Deathly aesthetic throughout. It’s dark ad drab, which is what makes the laughter feel inappropriate. The tone set at the first moment is one of reverence and dourness, but it turns itself inside out to force us into laughter. It reminds me of watching silent movies with my dad as a child or staying up late watching things I wasn’t meant to watch. Because we’re not meant to think of Death as funny or a moment for levity. We’re meant to wallow in pain, which is certainly valid, but I think we need more happiness in Death and more ways to cope with it than crushing depression.
In the wake of Robin Williams’ Death, maybe this is the kind of film we need. It doesn’t answer any questions, nor does it try to even ask them. It just gives us that absurdity we need when life is at its worst. We find ourselves laughing behind our hands at the funeral, like that great bit from the Mary Tyler Moore show that’s nearly forty years old now. Because the act of dying may be profoundly sad for those who go on living, but it doesn’t mean we need to stop enjoying our continued life. Death isn’t an answer or a questions. It’s just what happens when we’re done living. Whether we choose our end or it’s shoved upon us, we all must die, but first we shall live.
So let’s find a way to keep going in a world of Death and violence. Let’s keep on smiling, keep on laughing, keep on living absurdly, chasing coffins to make sure we bury our friends and their memories the right way.
Remembering who they are, who we are, what we mean to one another, and how beautiful it was to have Robin Williams on this planet. All the kindness, generosity, humor, and beauty he gave to the world.