Sunday, March 13, 2011

Across the Universe (Julie Taymor)

'A spot on a random haze.'

With all its moody visuals and a combination of acid psychedelia and some satiric doses regarding the Vietnam War (especially the "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" sequence), "Across the Universe" is also filled with great sequences that at times are even better than it's sum. It's also a refreshing reverberation of the musical genre, a film that did not compose any songs to substitute as verbal lines for its characters, but narrates a romantic tale set during late 60's America through bona fide Beatles classics that have individual stories, sensibilities and messages of their own that the film has successfully merged to create an emotionally coherent whole that brilliantly explores the counter cultural scene amidst the paranoia and protests, set during the waning days of the great American pretense towards conservatism.

Yes, I know 'The Beatles'. I know their names. I'm aware that John Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman. But all of those are nothing but pure information, so having the idea that not all people know (or even 'like') the Beatles and their music that much (except the likes of "Hey Jude"), "Across the Universe" has given their songs vibrant visual accompaniments to appeal to both the immediate aesthetics and the deeper emotions about the idea of a transcendental love; and there's even politics on the side.

For some, watching the film without enough knowledge of the said songs, may be an alienating experience. But with the creators' (especially director Julie Taymor who has weaved it all together) awareness about the probability of a thematic and contextual misunderstanding that may put down the film's connection with its potential audience, the film ended up having a hint of familiarity within us all. No, not just as a piece of musical to make us celebrate the Beatles' established legend (though that can be a bonus), but as a film ranging from sweet to nightmarish conceived to touch, affect, emotionally stimulate, and even violate us viewers with its overall display and content.

The performances, although generally good, isn't what's important in the film. Yes, it's the characters' story to share, but they are just a spot on a random haze. A slight blur on a sharp crowd. Yes, it's their feelings, but it's all heading and converging towards a common sentiment. A steady bond in the middle of an era of uncertainty and fear that may just as well go by overlooked and neglected. But with the help of songs looking for love, change, and connection, "Across the Universe" has given these 'nobodies' an uncommon voice, with some colorful alterations to back it up and great music to make sure it will certainly be heard.

I went to watch it knowing that the story will be progressively put into motion by Beatles songs; as the film ends, its prolonged grasp on my emotions tightens its hold like a tender hug. Yes, the narrative was surely and convincingly moved by the songs, but so was I.


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