Directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Green, Nicole Vicius, Ricky Jay, Ryan Orion and Harmony Korine.
'Last Days' is part of a trilogy along with Gus Van Sant's 'Elephant' and 'Gerry'. All three films are inspired by stories in the papers and revolve around death. This one came out of the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994. It is in memory of him, though not based on actual events.
Blake (Pitt) is the ultimate rock 'n' roll cliché, a musician who can no longer go on. Inner turmoil has lead to his decay, and the nonsense that's soaking up his thoughts is shown in his aimless actions. Everything has reached a level of profound irrationality. And everything stops.
Going slowly into death, 'Last Days' follows the lonely Blake in his final hours. Blake wobbles through a forest, mumbling to himself and undresses for a swim. Next morning he returns to his run down mansion which he shares with his so-called friends. He avoids them and they avoid him, unless they want some musical help from him.
Many people are looking for Blake, his manager, his record label and a private detective, but he hides from them too. The camera and you follow him and no one else knows what he is doing. He doesn't know what he is doing himself.
Blake spends his final few hours on his own. These are random, mumbling and illogical moments but his depth and creativity surface when he spontaneously bursts into music. In a film that is mostly silent, the music scenes, which are few and precious, are all the more powerful. Michael Pitt, who plays Blake, performs two of his own songs. 'Death to Birth' will blow you away and 'That Day' is a fantastic layered instrumental that flares with energy and whole-hearted soul. Then, when it is all quiet, Blake finds his final resting place in his haven greenhouse and seeks release.
Gus Van Sant always had a very conspicuous style. Likewise, here. The film uses a limited setting, replays from different views, and is mostly shot from single angles. Cinematography is an art mastered by the dextrous director. And Van Sant makes it all about the aesthetic realm.
The film captures an air of claustrophobia. Everything seems caged, from the limited setting of the grounds of the mansion, to Blake's hazy mind. In a film which aspires to capture inner turmoil, through actions and sounds and not necessarily dialogue, it succeeds. The film's aim is not to entertain but poetically capture life through to death. Nothing really happens, everything just lingers and for this reason 'Last Days' is tough to stick with. The monotony and silence is deafening, but ultimately that's what it's all about.
'Last Days' is poetic and deep. It will be ridiculed by many, thinking the film overall is slow and painful, just like Blake's death, but others will take it as a memoir of a talented musician and a tortured soul. Be warned though, it's a love it or hate it kind of film.