“How I was born I do not remember, How I will die I do not know” – Russian Proverb
Just last week while channel surfing I passed by HBO and saw Meet Joe Black about to be played. I can’t remember when we watched this in the cinema plus I have forgotten what this movie is all about. That’s typical me. Trying to figure out what I missed, I was glued on our couch again but with my thumb on the remote’s channel button waiting to press it any moment I get a hint of a boring story.
While watching I tried to recall past films about death. My mind replayed horrifying faces of the Scream mask; of a man in black hood with the ever familiar scythe; of heads rotating past 360 degrees; of men and women in death beds; and of bloodied soldiers dying in the battlefield. Those films portrayed death for what it is–morbid and scary. Interestingly, I set aside the remote few minutes after Meet Joe Black started. The scene opened with the character Bill Parrish abruptly waking up and having a confusing conversation with someone he can’t see, not sure if he is only hearing things.
More intriguing things followed and I would sooner realize that this movie would separate itself from any other films that portray death. Maybe its about casting. Death (known as Joe Black) is played by Brad Pitt, the prospective “victim” Bill Parrish is Anthony Hopkins and his lovely daughter Susie Parrish is Claire Forlaine, whose twitching lips and sharp probing eyes would catch my attention every now and then. Or maybe its the subtlety of the story despite the topic of death that stands out the most.
A mixture of emotions were running in my head as the film progresses. There’s the uncomfortable thought that sooner or later we will all die anyway. Then there is comic relief in the idea of meeting your angel of death and with him trying to calm you down to prevent a heart attack so as not to ruin his vacation here on earth. The writer also made a perfect pun of making Joe Black an IRS agent–there’s nothing more certain in life than death and taxes, remember? And there’s also the idea of getting in love with death. It’s absurd but for the first time Meet Joe Black made me find dying worth the wait.
The last moments in the movie aren’t predictable either. Instead of the boring death bed farewell, there were grand fireworks and partying. There’s Bill anxious yet firm in the midst of anticipation of leaving his family, business and aristocratic lifestyle and subsequently facing the unknown. To cap the story, the last conversation was perfectly chilling. “Should I be afraid?” Bill asked. Then Joe Black answered, “Not a man like you.”