She Dies Tomorrow (Amy Seimetz, 2020)

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therewillbeblus
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She Dies Tomorrow (Amy Seimetz, 2020)

#1 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:13 am

I'm still reeling from this experience. Seimetz smothers us with two sharply competing tones, the first being a solipsistic isolation that removes us from our realities into a self-gratifying yet horrifying inebriation. The latter is an absurdist milieu of inverted social skills, where people negate a person's existence through ignorance, bluntly discuss ridiculous topics or their calculative plans for breaking up, like something out of Lanthimos' playbook. The kicker is that the two states infect one another- the premonitions of death that are initially gaslit are then mused upon and disrupt others' functioning. The rushes of style (those colors, that music!) that feed the coma of self-absorption are, conversely, interrupted by this plain, scoreless, banal reality, and no actual catharsis or sustained self-involvement is possible. Part of the story hits on alcoholism, and while that obviously is too specific for the allegory Seimetz is drawing, her methodology is so on point to addiction's ping-pong between reality and delusion it's uncanny- particularly the self-destructive drowning that can also be reframed to be alleviation via self-medicated escape.

The commonality between both sides is fatalism, and so our perpetual fugue state is always doomed, with any satisfaction from either the imaginative rabbit holes of style or the relief from the pleasantries of social engagement never able to hold onto any harmony to locate a point of liberation. Seimetz seems to be presenting us with a world in which we are so uncomfortable that we can't cope with our thought and feelings that intrude on our consciences, because we can't turn inward or outward to our social partners to find answers. Enigmas in all shapes and sizes are marked with death, and the mere mention of this fatalistic truth is enough to 'infect' those around us with the disease in the form of a reminder of our mortality. The scenes of cleansing that follow are equally superficial and sourced in selfishness, with the parties trying to connect unable to overcome their own perspectives to empathize with another.

In the case of a person living in solitude, outside of a romantic relationship, well- their existential revelation is to become "useful" in quite an imaginative, yet ultimately meaningless and insane, way (and, now that I think about it, in no way 'imaginative' since it literally comes from online shopping, rather than an original thought!) And in the final moments, Amy's contrasting messages in self-talk hit home exactly how irreconcilable we are, not just to our surroundings but within ours psyches. Is this the ultimate horror movie? Or the ultimate satire on our ability to function in 2020, if we are really honest with ourselves? I don't know, it might be both or neither or something else, but it's also one of the best movies of the year.

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mfunk9786
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Re: She Dies Tomorrow (Amy Seimetz, 2020)

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Aug 10, 2020 5:09 pm

I also liked this quite a bit. Not so sure it stuck the landing by the time the credits rolled as there were an almost infinite number of things Seimetz could have done with the concept, but as an intellectual exercise I would say it's far and away superior to a Lanthimos film (sorry, sorry, I had to grab that part of your impressions, therewillbeblus, I am a character of my own on this forum, after all). It is almost eerie how much this mirrors our current era, but (appropriately enough, as I'll attempt to explain) during a Zoom Q&A following it, she mentioned it being sort of an experiment with what would happen if people interacted socially in a way that was always directly on target and not tangential in any fun or unexpected ways, which she felt was already happening with the conversations people were having regarding the politics of the day, sort of condensing those interactions down to the same jokes and talking points without much room to breathe and have authentic "riffs" (my word) like
SpoilerShow
the dolphin one, which while it seems like something out of a sketch as it is occurring, is sort of the key moment of the film in a lot of ways, Seimetz presenting us with an example of what is lost when people only manage to communicate with each other about their own fears and anxieties and realities. Even though there is a character announcing her impending death in this scene, it's the birthday girl with the silly anecdote that we should, in a way, feel a greater sense of loss for.
Can't help but think of that Silver Jews lyric that goes "on the last day of your life, don't forget to die" when I talk about She Dies Tomorrow, because it is, for all intents and purposes, about everything but death; instead all the accouterments that come with the life of a person who has acknowledged their death, the notion of accepting it and moving on to doing all the living that you can manage under the circumstances. Being able to move on and just have a genuine, authentic existence that isn't all about you and your anxieties and fears.

The very nature of a Zoom call was touched upon by Seimetz during the discussion too, with her reminding me that this film is so timely because without a traditional party/gathering available to most, a winding and unpredictable "dinner party" form of interacting with other human beings sort of goes out the window more than she ever could have guessed when writing the film. You make a video or phone call to talk about the news, talk about what you're doing, talk about how you're doing, and then hang up. She Dies Tomorrow is sort of like Pontypool in the respect that the very act of expressing oneself to another person is both the virus and the cure, and we might have no way out of what is a very vicious ouroboros that is getting more isolating by the day. Felix Biederman has called our current era the "age of loneliness" (again, before COVID was even in the equation), and this certainly seems to me to be a film about what that notion means to Seimetz.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: She Dies Tomorrow (Amy Seimetz, 2020)

#3 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Aug 10, 2020 5:54 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 5:09 pm
Can't help but think of that Silver Jews lyric that goes "on the last day of your life, don't forget to die" when I talk about She Dies Tomorrow, because it is, for all intents and purposes, about everything but death; instead all the accouterments that come with the life of a person who has acknowledged their death, the notion of accepting it and moving on to doing all the living that you can manage under the circumstances. Being able to move on and just have a genuine, authentic existence that isn't all about you and your anxieties and fears.
Great post, especially this point which is so true. As your Q&A seems to suggest to me, I really appreciate how Seimetz chooses an anti-didactic route in approaching this material, and even if I personally couldn't agree more with your last sentence quoted, she validated both that position and the inescapability sometimes to overcome our mental health on equal terms. That back and forth of drowning and escaping is layered with the desire to drown and the fear of escaping, just as it is the more normalized flipped versions of those positions. The title alone, focusing on the future-tense, brings the attention to the present; but whether that present will be filled with anxiety and unhelpful thinking or serenity is a rhetorical question because it will be filled with both and more. It's a very humanistic lens toward acknowledging our imperfections without damning them.

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