Thursday, 1 December 2011
Brainstorm; science-fiction drama, USA, 1983; D: Douglas Trumbull, S: Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson, Alan Fudge
Scientists Lillian and husband and wife team Michael and Karen create a device that can record a person's audio-visual-sensory experience on a tape and then play it for other viewers via a special helmet. After the military insists on exploring the invention, Lillian has a heart attack in the laboratory, but uses her last piece of strength to turn the device on and record her own death. Michael wants to play the tape to see a human's experience of death, with amendments that will not affect his own heart. Since the military wants to use the tape for torture, Karen hacks into the factory to cause chaos among the machines while Michael downloads the tape and sees the death experience in the shape of space travel to another galaxy and fairies.
With all due respect for Natalie Wood in her last screen performance, science-fiction movie "Brainstorm" as a whole seems like patchwork, an uneven and incoherent story based on a fantastic premise of "recording" people's audio-visual experiences, whereas it stays open if Wood's sudden death caused certain rewrites in the film or even lack of whole sequences since she was one of the leading roles. In this forerunner to "Strange Days", the authors did not manage to exploit all the rich possibilities of the stimulative concept to the maximum (one of the rare examples where they prove otherwise is the idea that a man can "record" his sex experience with a woman, which is then replayed by one "viewer" to the point where he gets dizzy from too much orgasms) which is why "Brainstorm" seems rather underused, sadly waisting its running time only on an (albeit subversive) subplot where the hero Michael is trying to obtain a "death tape" from the military who has taken over his research centre in order to use it as some sort of MKULTRA project. The sole visual style of the movie that "replays" the recorded experiences is excellent, though, using fish eye lens in filming a person's POV of riding a horse, flying, driving or going down the water slide. The ending turned out the worst, both in not resolving/neglecting what will happen to the device in the army's hands and Michael's surreal (and pointless) obsession with seeing the "death tape" that inappropriately drifts away into the religious since he sees a person's soul traveling through space, which is entirely out of character with the whole previous "scientifically cold" tone of the film up to it.