Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Friday Movie Review ( late, early? tough to tell)
It supposedly is three stories, linked in myriad ways, set in 1500, 2006 and 2500 (although that wasn't set out clearly, at least to me). The first problem with that is the Spaniards, we know from reviewing Apocalypto, did not get to the Yucatan until 1517 (Funny how the Mayan have made a big comeback in movie roles these past few months). Additionally Queen Isabella was 49 in 1500, not the raving young beauty (Rachel Weisz) as she is portrayed. Also, the star Weisz is looking at early in the movie, the setting (kinda) of the third part, is not a nebula around a dying star called Xibalba by the Mayans (which was supposedly their underworld) flanked by two bright stars, but the Orion Nebula, which is the birthplace of new stars. Did they think we wouldn't notice the belt of Orion in the sky just above it?
I was struck by several things of extraordinary beauty. The stars over the Yucatan, Isabella's dress, the 'floating' candles in her Moorish throne room, the nebula and the aging tree (in the right light) and perhaps a few other things I can't now recall, all look a lot alike and are beautiful. The narrative is fractured and interwoven between the three periods, so that it is challenging to figure out what was going on. I humbly think I got it. I'm going to leave out the interwoven themes which were mainly well done, but get in the way of a crisp narrative.
SPOILER alert: The first part is merely a story that dying-of-a-recurrent-brain-tumor Rachel Weisz is writing up to a point (flaming sword towards Hugh Jackman's head). In the story, there is a tree (the biblical Tree of Life) in the center of the Yucatan, the sap of which gives you eternal life (by nearly instantly turning you into growing plants). The Mayan creation myth has the first father killing himself to become the fertilizer of the tree of all life. Rachel Weisz's Mayan 21st Century guide talked of his father's becoming immortal by being buried under a tree to become part of the circle of life. In Spain, the Queen is being stalked by the murderous, self-flagellating Grand Inquisitor, who delivers an important homily while torturing and murdering the heretics. Our bodies, he tells us, are the prisons of our everliving souls which will only be released upon our death. Conquistador Jackman agrees to find the tree and gets to a hidden pyramid where he is the only survivor of the Mayan onslaught. He fights a priest Mayan at the top, gets stabbed, is about to get killed and the story ends. He is to finish it, because 21st Century author Rachel Weisz dies. When he finishes it, his 26th century self appear to the priest, who stops killing the Conquistador, allows himself to be sacrificed and Jackman drinks the sap of the tree and it transforms him into flowering plants. End of that story.
In the 21st Century surgeon/researcher Jackman, in a moment of inspiration, trying to find a drug which will shrink brain tumors, like his wife has, uses the sap of a Central American tree (with special preparation) so that in the poor rhesus or baboon test subject, not only does the tumor shrink but the shot gives nearly instant youth to the old monkey. Too late to save his wife, Jackman is destroyed, nearly, by her death, but finally gets it and plants a seed pod near her grave to feed her body into the world at large. He also, apparently uses the sap of the Tree of Life to cure at least himself of death. That's the middle story, briefly, with reasonable inferences.
In the future story, the, apparently, same, ageless Jackman (now bald)and the very Tree of Life are in a crystal sphere somehow traveling very fast towards Xibalba, the mythical nebula. They have been traveling for a while. The tree is very old and from time to time Jackman takes some sap, more tree than sap, and eats it. He's seeing his wife over and over when he did not take a last walk with her in the snow. He's tattooing lines on his arms with the extremely used pen his wife gave him to finish her manuscript of the Spanish story. It's that detail which causes me to believe this third part is real not a dream of Jackman, or a parable like the end of 2001. When he gets to the nebula, the tree dies, then the dying star explodes, the tree is revived and Jackman too dies and is reborn and gets to live with Weisz forever. That's because his death (much delayed by his use of the sap from the Tree of Life) frees his immortal soul to the next level where his wife has been for 5 centuries. Death is not a disease to be cured, it is the beginning of the road to awe.
A lot of people found it very sad. Not me though. I pretty much liked it. 96 minutes long--intellectually heavy and somber.
I am still reflecting on this movie. Regardless of which movie was better the cinema photography using the darkness and light was well done and used well to support the premise of the movie. The movie itself was is as simple or as complicated as one wants to view/interpret. If you are a viewer that enjoys dissecting movies and looking for analytical means for addressing the philosophical meaning of life you will greatly enjoy this one! The scene with the “floating” candles was so beautiful. I was trying to delineate how the scene was created, were all on tall candle sticks with different heights coupled with ones that were hanging (different heights was the answer), because wouldn’t be nice to reproduce that someday without setting your home on fire. Not realistic but the beauty of the scene was enchanting.
If you mean that people found it sad because of the love story where one dies, I agree that piece was sad only because you want happiness/love to last in the here and now, but he overall theme of the movie was anything but sad. The movie for me, felt like it lasted longer than 96 minutes.