‘Meet Joe Black’ is an American attempt to make a philosophical and mystical film the way the Europeans do. And even though it does not fully succeed, it has some gems to treasure.
It is based on the similar idea that a lot of old European fables are – about clever humans who try to trick death and buy themselves a little bit more time on Earth. Rich people try to bribe the Ripper only to find out that he doesn’t care about money. Where he comes from they have no value. But here Death decides that money is actually useful on Earth and chooses the best person to show him what life is all about – a rich man, Bill Parrish. It is a very American idea, just like consumerism and capitalism.
Later we realize that Death from the beginning had a plan – he wanted to know what love was. And Bill was talking about it to his daughter Sarah in such a persuasive manner that it must have sparked a desire in Death to experience that. So, one night he came to Bill’s house and joined him and his family at dinner, being introduced by Bill as Joe Black. It obviously wasn’t an accident that he decided to use the body of a young man who in the morning managed to woo Sarah. She is the reason why he has chosen Bill for his guide.
Joe acts like a little boy. Everything is new to him and he wants to try everything. He is also very innocent. All that helps him to make Sarah fall in love with him and finally experience everything her father wanted her to feel. ‘I want you to get swept away out there. I want you to levitate, I want you to sing with rapture and dance like a dervish’ – he tells her. In short, he wants her to be ‘deliriously happy’. Because ‘love is passion, obsession’ – as he explains to her: – ‘Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back’.
To find somebody like that he tells her she needs to forget her head and just listen to her heart. ‘There’s no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, you haven’t lived a life at all’. It was probably these words that encouraged Joe to experience crazy love like that with her. At the end Bill just asked Sarah to ‘stay open’. Because ‘who knows? Lightning could strike’. It creates the perfect opportunity for Joe to step in. To feel that somebody wants him and not to feel lonely anymore.
At the end of the film, when Bill and Joe are finally leaving this Earth, Bill says to Joe: ‘It’s hard to let go, isn’t it? That’s life’. Joe now knows what it means to be alive. His mission is accomplished. He leaves with some nice pictures in his head to take back with him. And that’s what matters.