What does this 1998 Japanese film, set in a way-station between life on Earth and an afterlife, intend to tell us about the connection between personal identity and memory? The recently deceased are assigned a sort of social worker who, over the course of one week, helps them pick one memory from their lives that they will recreate as a short film, and which they will carry into the afterlife as their only memory. Some of the characters in the film are unable to choose a single such memory, or do not want to do so, because they will also forget everything else about their lives. Is this a reasonable response to the program? Do they have a legitimate concern that they would be losing their identities, dying in a way, at the onset of the almost perfect amnesia? How does the film relate to other films, like Blade Runner, Nine Days, Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Heaven Can Wait, which also play with the connection between memory and personal identity, or work with the notion of souls being selected for embodiment in particular individual humans in particular circumstances, while having particular capacities? How does this genre of film present us with variations on political philosopher John Rawls’ “original position” thought experiment? Would that thought experiment serve as the basis of an engaging film itself?

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