Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vanilla Sky

By Sati. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , , ,
(136 min, 2001)
Director: Cameron Crowe
Writers: Alejandro Amenábar (film "Abre Los Ojos"), Mateo Gil (film "Abre Los Ojos")
Stars: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz and Cameron Diaz

From Dreamland with Love

Vanilla Sky is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again, because I think that they are perfect. I wouldn't change a single thing in this film. It depicts life as it is – the issue of love, death, dreams, friendship, work, money, sanity. It is a complete look into a person's personality. And it is the only movie where the character acts in a way that I cannot understand. It is so noble and brave, that even I, raging case of a romantic wouldn't jump off that damn roof in the end. I would stay with the person I love, living immortal life. Who cares if that's not real? What is real anyways?

The movie's prologue is amazing – If I were to choose the best prologue in the history of the cinema that would be it. Tom Cruise's character wakes up, gets to his car and drives. The is no one in the streets. Nobody, Anywhere. He gets to Times Square. It is empty. He gets out and runs. Completely Alone. That scene gets into your head – it is both incredible and frightening.

Vanilla Sky is one of those movies that have a twist – except here the twist is something that actually fits the story. For 1/3 the viewer thinks it's something like 'Fatal attraction'. But then the movie takes a dramatic turn – there are many clues to read the story right, except nobody actually looks for them whilst watching 'cause what we see is so absorbing.

When David is arrested, the plaque on his photo lineup reads "W85N 494 T85 4R51M 253OM5 1 N978TM1R5?" Some elementary code-breaking reveals "WHEN DID THE DREAM BECOME A NIGHTMARE?". There are two other coded messages (mentioned on Crowe's commentary) on the 3D X-Ray of David Aames' skull. To the lower left of the skull it reads "4ON0TW1K589MUP" = "Do not wake him up." To the lower right there is the message, "PL: 51S1NT 4R51MS", or "Pleasant Dreams".

The movie's construction is very complicated – we jump between present and past, between characters, reality and dreams. The timing is perfect and the narration doesn't let the viewer get lost in the complicated story.

And the story is – David Aames is young, successful, he has more money than God, he has great friend, pretty girlfriend, tons of people addicted to him in different ways. He has resources, looks, power. And then he meets a girl. I always believed in perfect love – that you just meet a person and you know that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. I never believed in this whole 'only hormones and chemicals' version of things. I strongly insist that there is magic in love. That is why I related to characters – David meets Sofia, incredible woman and he falls in love. They spent a night together, talking, laughing, drawing pictures of each other. He gets out, knowing the true feeling of love and happiness and he gets into his insane girlfriend's car...
That is where the turn occurs. And then another. And then...yet another.

The story depicts many things but the way it depicts love is stunning. David met Sofia only 3 times in real life – one of those times wasn't even pleasant. But it was enough for him to decide that she is the one. He forsake reality, he forsake life to be with her in a perfect illusion. It took him 150 years of dreaming to let go. And maybe he only let go because Sofia said to him „I'll see you in another life, when we are both cats”?

Because in the end of the movie we find out David is in deed dreaming. After the accident his face was disfigured and his body and his life were in pieces. He froze himself and dreamed. The whole notion is fascinating to me and I think the creators depicted how human subconscious and dreaming work very well. I experienced lucid dreaming many times, so the whole thing wasn't so complicated to me as it may be to other people. The idea of using that concept as an entertainment and actually interfere with person's mind whilst he or she is dreaming is not so far-off. I think it is actually a very near future.

The ending where David says goodbye to Sofia and chooses life over dream is amazing. He jumps off the roof and his entire life (and dreams) flash before his eyes. I am still on the fence when it comes to the last shot of the film, where we see David's eye opening and someone's voice saying “Relax, David, open your eyes”. That ending brings a lot of hope and it proves the whole dream concept of the movie. If the film ended with David seeing the ground getting closer and closer that would open the new possibility of actual conspiracy theory occurring in the plot or the moment of his death – perhaps the entire last 2/3 of the film were David's dream when he was in coma after which he died? That would definitely be depressing and even more powerful than the actual ending. I have not seen 'Abre Los Ojos' – the movie Vanilla Sky is the remake of, so I cannot compare those two.

The sequence leading up to the ending – with the presentation of whole dreaming-entertainment concept by Tilda Swinton's character (Tilda always makes an unforgettable appearance) and David's and Tech Support's conversation in elevator is exceptional – We get to see Sofia again and we get to see her reaction to the fact someone chose death, chose illusion, because he couldn't live without her. Powerful, very moving and as I imagine, incredibly scaring to heroine.
I was puzzled about one thing – why did David get into Julie's car? “Consequences, David. They are little things” says Tech Support - “but there is nothing bigger”. If David hadn't get in her car he could have lived happily with Sophia. But he was treating Julie like a plaything and she was in love with him. I relate to her character – perhaps her love was even as big as David's love to Sophia – after all she also gave up her life for it. Sure, she was psychotic and deeply disturbed, but it was that love that pushed her over the edge. And it was David's actions that caused the tragedy, not hers. She was like ticking bomb and he was joggling her.
I don't like Tom Cruise on personal level - I never actually met the guy, but I have difficulty with people who believe that one man died for all of their sins 2000 years ago, so you can only imagine what I think of people whose religious beliefs claim all their suffering is due to aliens and bad spirits living in them. But he is a very good actor – he brought to life one of my favorite book characters Lestat, from 'the vampire chronicles' and he was perfectly cast here. He is very plausible as rich, spoiled guy who gets everything he wants. He gets into his character easily and the viewer sympathizes with him.

The latest film I saw with Penelope Cruz in it was 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' and I still carry her performance from that one lovingly in my memory. It was interesting to see her in a role so much different from Maria Elena. Sofia Serrano is one of Cameron Crowe's incredible, life-changing women, who stumbles upon main character's way. She is incredibly joyful, fascinating and lively– she loves life and takes it as it is. She's not specifically great match for character – she's great match for everyone. Too bad we only get to see Sofia through David's eyes. It was a little unclear to me why she was so freaked out by David after his accident. He was disfigured, granted, but still if she was such a kind, gentle person and if she genuinely cared for him, she wouldn't act so cold towards him. She simply wouldn't care about his looks – I know Kirsten Dunst's character from 'Elizabethtown' and Penny Lane from „Almost Famous” wouldn't.

It is really fascinating to me that every single time main character has stalking, crazy woman being insanely in love with him that woman is blonde. What is up with that? We all remember Glenn Close boiling the bunny. Now we have Cameron Diaz – Cruise and Cruz are really good but Diaz is great. She is in deed psychotic – totally unpredictable, dangerous, yet very sad and alone. Her character has moved me and Diaz should get more praise for her work in the film. The little things she does built her performance – that's a rare art. Too bad that actress chooses mind-numbingly bad movies lately.

The music in the film is truly tremendous – Cameron Crowe's movies always have wonderful selection of songs but this one is outstanding – there are even 10-15 seconds melody pieces from various songs inserted in scenes. I am thrilled that Crowe used Radiohead's songs which fit the movie perfectly (Everything in Its Right Place in the beginning and I Might Be Wrong during the scene with Tech Support and David in the restaurant), but the best choice is Sigur Ros's The Nothing Song played in the final scene – that is not only beautiful choice for that particular scene, that is the only choice I could think of and something that combined with amazing imagery of the scene stays with you, long after seeing the movie. Notably 'Ladies and Gentelmen we are floating in space” brought tears to my eyes and original compositions by Crowe's wife, Nancy Wilson are wonderful too.

The movie has unusually huge amount of cuts – Crowe does it a lot. For example -in the scene were David talks to his shrink we see him, then we see quick cut to Sofia and then we see David again only to get a quick shot of Sofia again. I love this technique – it makes the movie more complex, more whole, it helps the director create totally separate universe for each movie.

I really believe that immortality, actual eternal life is something that's going to be obtained by science soon. I think in few centuries the aging process will be stopped and then reversed and the only cause of human's death will be trauma. Later on the scientists will be probably able to actually give life to the deceased. Maybe even during our lives this all will be discovered, who knows.
The concept of cryonics is already well known, but nobody was unfrozen and alive, at least in my understanding. But how great would it be to actually sleep for century or more, dream a perfect life and then wake up in the world filled with new possibilities, nobody has even dreamed of the day you were frozen? My biggest regret is that I was born too early and the thought that one day people will be able to live forever is very annoying and frustrating to me.

But maybe REAL love, even the one that dies along with two people experiencing it, is even more important. But I don't see, even far into the future, the formula for happy, amazing love. In this I see more than human mind can explain.


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