After Yang is the latest feature film made by South Korean filmmaker, Kogonada that was mostly known for his debut film called Columbus. With his second film available for the public, it seems Kogonada has developed a unique taste of cinema and filmmaking for himself. There are many mutual contributes between After Yang and Columbus. After Yang is a sci-fi drama movie narrating the story of a family whose android or techno-sapiens, which was considered as a sibling for their daughter, malfunctions and the coming problems from it. The film is based on a short story called Saying Goodbye to Yang, written by Alexander Weinstein. After Yang is currently playing in theaters and also available for stream on Showtime.
Story – The Optismic Future of Humans and Androids
After many movies portraying futures and AI as villains and doom bringers of humans, After Yang looks the opposite way and showed the good and emotional side of AI becoming part of our lives. Yang is an android or techno-sapiens that is designed as an older sibling to help the young sibling learn the Chinese language and culture. The beauty of After Yang lies in its humanitarian and emotional point of view on robots and androids.
The story talks about many things that could make a film so complex no one would understand, but Kogonada manages to jump over that trap and make a well-paced dense movie about the value of feelings. The question of whether AI would have feelings is not a new subject, but the take of Kogonada is quite unique. The first and utmost difference between After Yang and other movies talking about AI is they don’t treat the androids as androids. In the world of After Yang, an android is considered as a family for many people, therefore it doesn’t feel strange.
After Yang talks about many other things as well, like the afterlife, family, children, and much more, it doesn’t feel like you are taking too much information or it’s way too complex to understand. Kogonada genuinely shows what he wants us to see without making his movie complex or too hard to understand. It is because Kogonada uses the topics or philosophies he wants to discuss, simply as a force to make characters more real and the story lovelier.
Characters and Performances – Androids Are Too Human
There is a particular scene in which Jack talks about tea with Yang and how he found his passion. It seems like a simple conversation but it talks about much more. How every person in the world does all these things without paying attention to it. We eat, sleep, drink, watch, listen but we don’t pay any attention to it. Just like androids and robots, we repeat all these things without enjoying them, without passion. The fact that Yang seems more interested in the subject suggests that maybe he is more human than most of us.
Speaking of Jack, Colin Farell is simply phenomenal in this movie. Overshowing the anger, sadness, or any other feeling is hard but not as hard as showing them subtly with the least expressions. Even though other cast members like Haley Lu Richardson or Jodie Turner-Smith have beautiful moments, Farell steals the attention of viewers every time he appears in a scene. His minimalistic acting style was the best choice for a film like After Yang. While everyone’s attention is focused on his role as Penguin in Batman, his best performance is actually in Kogonada’s film.
Cinematography and Sound – Dramatizing with Sound and Camera
The first thing that would make you fall in love with Kogonadas’ films is how much he pays attention to little details on the placement of subjects and the angle to use the camera. Even though this was much bolder in Columbus since it was based on architects After Yang still brings so many lovely shots to the audience.
The film is filled with pint-point camera movements and placements but it doesn’t seem overused. Kogonada knows when to show a jaw-dropping shot and when not to. The knowledge of not using too many unique shots is something most directors don’t have. Not to mention the wonderful light setting of each scene. Even if someone doesn’t know any academic filmmaking techniques on how to tell a story subtly with a camera, they would feel the image is talking to them. The key to achieving this is the masterful selection of music and composition of Ryuichi Sakamoto. The sound and scores of the film function as the glue that makes everything in the film stick to each other.
Like the scene where Jack has to decide whether he wants to complain to the company about their androids saving data from their personal lives. Jack steps slowly into the shadow, thinks for a moment then comes back into the light. The score here also follows the same path. It gets higher as Jack steps into the shadow making the scene stressful but comes to ease once Jack steps back into the light. Even if you don’t notice it for the first time, you would understand it unconsciously.
Pacing and Editing – The Genius of Kogonada
By making After Yang it is assured that Kogonada has developed his own recipe of filmmaking. His films are dense, packed with so many things, yet it seems so simple. You won’t be terrified, depressed, or sad when the credits roll. You would feel like something was added to your soul like a long searched answer.
He doesn’t put the audience on edge, quite the contrary he makes the viewer relax and calm while talking about heavy subjects like the afterlife. We don’t see this kind of filmmaking anymore, it’s all action-packed blockbusters or complex intellectual philosophized moving pictures. The pace of his films also indicates this. His films are meditation through watching. We don’t see movies that would gently touch the soul of the viewer and make them calm just for a few hours. This is the magic of Kogonada’s filmmaking; shaking a person’s core without even noticing.