Nine Days Recommendation and Explanation

Nine Days Recommendation and Explanation
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Nine Days Recommendation and Explanation – watch Nine Days right here:

Some movies walk such a fine line between sentimentality and treacly sap and exultant triumphalism that it’s more like watching a high wire act than watching the literal story unfolding before your eyes. Nine Days, for me, exploding out on the other side of sentimentality, and successfully navigated out into the land of glorious triumphant exultation… but I won’t argue with you if you call me out on this one. I won’t agree with you either. But call me out all you want. Why? Because I was a crying, sapping mess as the ending of Nine Days unfolded. Why? Not because of loss, or death… but because of hoped for moments that long ago were lost. You’ll see once you watch yourself. But I loved this movie.

What is it about? Will (played by Winston Duke) spends his time out at a remote outpost in a nether region of a sort of nether-reality. He watches lives unfolding on earth, and when one ends, it is his job to fill the slot with a new soul. Finding these souls, he interviews them and determines which one is the best candidate to fill the open role. A clever idea for a movie really. One that puts the viewer in the unique position to question what makes a person the most likely candidate for life. It’s a brilliant vehicle for making us think how we all are living up to these assumptions and expectations… we have been chosen after all.

Quick Nine Days Walkthrough

So Will, he’s an arbiter. What’s an arbiter? Apparently, arbiters are sort of like judges who determine whether or not a soul is worthy of inhabiting the land of the living. Will lives in the vast planes of some middle universe world – a pre-existence – post-existence – not living, not dead – sort of a real estate location. (Would that kind of location drive up, or drive down the value of your house? I mean, the three things that determine a house value are 1) Location, 2) Location, 3) Location, after all. Well, Will takes time out in order to interview souls, and if he does not select them, he grants them a single “memory” before they are erased. (Violent… literally the most violent of all violent ends!) The movie starts with Kyo visiting, and watching the footage… it turns out the Kyo is the one soul that resisted wiping. So Kyo has continued assisting Will with his interviews.

On the screens, that are stacked and racked, plays the footage of someone’s life that he selected to be birthed into life. (The stacked TVs reminds me of an awesome moment my friends threw for me – we watched all six Star Wars movies (at that time there were only six) at the same time. Six televisions, six DVD players. It was a pretty fantastic celebration.) Well, from the start of the movie, it’s pretty obvious that Will’s favorite of the life-footage, that he prefers to watch most is that of a violin prodigy, a 28-year-old, Amanda. Only glitch? Rushing to go to a really important concert, she drives way too fast, and crashes into a bridge abutment and it kills her. Gack, bad. Really very bad.

Now, what Will does, is that when someone on Earth dies, he selects a soul to replace them. (The math doesn’t add up, because the population has been growing exponentially, it isn’t remaining flat, but I digress.) Will is grieving Amanda’s death. But he still has a job to do. He needs to interview candidates for Amanda’s replacement. He does this by taking copious notes about their thoughts on others who have been chosen to be materialized into life. Through the next nine days, Will chats with the various candidates and begins eliminating them one by one… for being to harsh, too little respect, you get the idea. (Not particularly clear on why Will utilizes self-consciousness as a criterion for disqualification – but whatever.) Emma, Will’s obvious favorite, seems really uninterested in Will’s selection process. Despite her disinterest, she is extraordinarily empathetic and very curious.

Adding a bit of a right hook to the standard flow and cadence of the movie, Kyo invites another evaluator/arbiter because they coincidentally selected Amanda’s cousin for materialization. (Birthing? Reanimating? No, animation! They selected Amanda’s cousin for animation!) Interestingly, the arbiter gives Will a video that happened after Amanda’s death that uncovers the fact that Amanda had written a suicide note before her crash. YAcK, she committed suicide?? This does not bode well for Will, who continues to obsess with Amanda, her life, and her death. I mean, why did she do it?

In Will’s interactions with Emma, he eventually reveals to her that in his past life, he once performed in a play that made him feel truly alive. But he admits that he never chased this moment on the stage, instead he allowed this experience to fade away. And when Alex, another candidate for animation, calls out Will’s double standard for judging people, I mean, seeing as though he obviously didn’t do anything grand with his chance on the stage (pun intended). And as the movie wraps up, we are left with just two candidates – Emma and Kane. Emma lives a carefree life, sees only the best in others, and Kane is really pessimistic in all of his interactions with others. But in Kane’s pessimism, he is resolved to fight back against the evil in the world that he acknowledges is there. Should a person lively blithely unaware of the evil all around us? Or should the recognize it in order to push back against it?

Kyo recommends that Will should select Emma… but instead, Will selects Kane. Wait, WAHHHHHT?!? Now, as Will did for all of the un-selected previous candidates, he offers them a final memory, a final last experience. Now, Emma, she jots down something, but Will says, nope. Can’t do that. Off limits. So instead of having a final experience, she just walks off into the desert until she fades away. Afterwards, Will discovers a note from Emma, thanking him for the happy memories she had throughout the evaluation process. Oh, wait, he starts finding them everywhere in the house. Oh damn! Now he feels positively horrific that he chose Kane instead of Emma! So he runs after her and chases her down. And there, he recites from selections of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself… they yell, and scream, and he performs so eloquently… and then, he thanks her.

Thoughts on Nine Days

The only real question that I think we all would have at the end of this movie is this: “Why did Will select Kane over Emma?” And the answer says more about Will than really about anything else. Remember, Will has lived… he has had his chance at the dance. He comes with his own experiences. His own failings… his own flaws, hurts, and pain. So, I would argue that Will, from his flawed perspective, selects incorrectly. And his actions after his selection proves that out. He selected Kane simply because he was more of a glass half empty fellow. He wasn’t naive, he assumed the worst, and hoped for the best. And because of that perspective, Will believed that he would be a good candidate for life. A candidate that would help right wrongs, and overcome the evil in the world. But in selecting Kane, he turned his back on the sheer innocence, curiosity and goodness that was Emma. And when he found notes scrawled here, there, and everywhere, he realized what an enormous mistake he had made. And I cried. And cried. And cried with this ending. Will realizes that he has to fulfill her last request, which was to perform again. And to take Whitman, to place him in this context? It’s sheer brilliance.

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun…. there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand…. nor look through the eyes of the dead…. nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

Walt Whitman – Song of Myself – part 2

Walt Whitman was a titan in the field of poetry who straddled transcendentalism and realism. He wrote gorgeously about loss. And death. Healing. And he wrote about life. So, to have these two souls, opining so emotionally about life (which one will not get to experience, and the other has experienced, but screwed up) really blows out the back end of this movie. If you have a heart that beats, or a mind that understands, you should be flattened by this ending. I liken it to the Carpe Diem scene from Dead Poet’s Society… standing on the desk, barking at the world… proclaiming you are alive! Grabbing life by the moment, seizing the day!

Emma watches Will. She is learning from him. She is trying to understand what it is that she was missing in this “being alive”-ness. The acting here by Zazie Beetz is perfect in its timing, and gloriously a half-beat off of Will’s, moment by moment as she attempts to understand. And Will… reliving his moment on the stage.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood. Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Walt Whitman – Song of Myself – part 52

Emma sensed it all in Will. She is a new soul, and yet she reads him like a book. She ascertained his pain, and his loss, and the unfinished nature of his business there on earth. So she wanted to know why his life on earth was so very painful. And Will, he won’t tell her. More than that, he refuses to answer any other requests for information about his time alive. To that point, Director Edson Oda, in an interview talking about this final scene, explained the monologue really as being a dialogue even though Emma didn’t have any lines…

I really see [the ending scene] as a dialogue because even though Emma — Zazie doesn’t have the lines — so it’s just so much about how she responds in a way that she became part of it. I think that was the scene, ironically, that I directed the least. My main note was just to build it up, like, you know, “Start from here, and then go there. And don’t touch each other.” This is performing, so you can make art of it.

For that I just stepped back a little bit, and I told my cinematographer to just follow her movements, whatever they do. Winston would start and then from what Zazie was giving to him, he would just start doing something, you know, responding to that. And then from what Winston would give to her, Zazie would start doing something different. So it was this amazing game that both of them were playing, completing each other. And it was just, it was interesting, because I was able to just step back. It was more about letting them do their thing, and they did great.

I think my favorite line actually is more when they yelled together. It’s just like a yell and the sun comes, almost like this third character. Initially it’s interesting because when I was writing, the sun represented Amanda somehow, this violin, so it’s kind of almost like a conversation with three people there. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on that scene. I really love that.

And so, Emma’s question sits with me still. Torments my soul: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” Which reminds me of David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement speech delivered to the Kenyon College graduating class of 2005. Which, I won’t belabor the point, I’ll let you watch it for yourself here. But the question is poignant… What is water? Are we aware we are living? Are we thankful for that life? Have we but a few light kisses, only a few light embraces… some reaching around of arms… the shadows of trees as they sway in the wind, the bustling sounds of streets, that feelings of fullness of health, the crescendo of that full-noon feeling, the jumping up, the meeting of the sun…

Edited by: CY