FNE at Berlinale 2023: Competition: Past Lives (USA)

    Past Lives by Celine Song Past Lives by Celine Song source: berlinale.de

    BERLIN: New York based playwright, director and screenwriter Celine Song makes her cinematic debut with Past Lives which screens in the main competition in Berlin.  The film already screened in Sundance earlier this year where it garnered rave reviews.

    The Korean-Canadian Song who also wrote the script for Past Lives counts Endlings which premiered at the American Repertory Theatre in 2019 and a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull on The Sims 4 among her theatre work.  Song’s irst television screenwriting experience was as a swriter for the first season of Amazon's The Wheel of Time.

    It is this extensive theatre experience which Song brings to her debut feature. It is the story of Nora played by Greta Lee and Hae Sung played by Teo Yoo, two deeply connected childhood friends, are separated from each other when Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea. Two decades later, Hae Sung resolves to visit Nora for a few days in New York where she lives with her American husband Arthur played by John Magaro. Facing each other like the phantoms of a life unlived, they confront notions of destiny, love and the choices that constitute a life.

    There is definitely an autobiographical element in Past Lives which gives the film a personal feel.  Song, like Nora, emigrated from Korea to Canada in her childhood and she is now married to an American writer and lives in New York.  Song is interested in honesty in her work and it is this honesty that she brings to the screen in Past Lives described as an intensely resonant meditation on the trajectory of life.  Song bring much more than a love triangle to the story.  She is interested in asing universal questions about what choices shape our lives and is love and sacrifice really what life is made of.  Despite the elegant construction of the story Song said she never conceived of the story as a play it was always destined for the screen.  The film’s story is sure to bring to mind that great American poet Robert Frost and The Road Not Taken.

    Past Lives (USA)
    Directed by Celine Song
    Cast: Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro