Of life, obituaries and The Last Word

(Talking movies, differently #7)
(Contains spoilers)

A few years back while watching Tony Kaye’s Detachment, I was inspired to write my own version of what a close one would say at my funeral. Two years back, sitting in the mundaneness of a conference room turned classroom, my magazine journalism instructor told us about obituary writing. I still remember she told the class, “Do you know that Amitabh Bachchan’s obituary is probably worked on, thoroughly updated, and lying in all the print media houses? They’re prepared.”
And I remember muttering to myself ‘what a sad thing!’
Thinking about this episode from the past I found myself wondering if Amitabh Bachchan was trying to control the records of his life by doing what Harriet Lauler did in The Last Words. It will be no surprise to know if the answer was yes because to have achieved so much fame in life, one wouldn’t want their last accounts to sum up their lives differently from all the pomp and glory!

It is fair I suppose to have that urge to control the requiem of one’s lifetime; after all we all in a way want to be remembered in some meaningful way for something, for even perhaps anything. As Harriet scrounges for new pursuits out of her magnificent loneliness, it strikes her that the one last thing she wants is to be remembered greatly! How’s that possible when not a single friend, family member or colleague has a nice thing to say about her? And so, she sets off for her failure! Yes, failure. She knows she can’t change the past nor can she use her position or influence to dissolve the bitterness in people’s heart, and so she sets off chasing her failure for one last time, a philosophy she lived by! She sets off to control The Last Word! Anne, an obituary writer, can’t do otherwise and so unwillingly joins Harriet in their sojourn to make Harriet’s obituary a great one, just like herself.

I think any kind of relationship can mean entirely different once you pass that ‘understanding/knowing factual phase’ of sharing yourself with someone and begin to do something together. Anne turned from an unwilling accomplice to Harriet’s whim to loving Harriet for her guidance and fearlessness. Anne could finally buy that ticket! I think the most beautiful thing about this movie is this unexpected togetherness between these two women and how it adds to the life they share, even for a while. And as for The Last Word, can you ever control it but to actually truly live your life till the end?