Sunday, September 27, 2015

Upside Down

Upside Down; fantasy / romance, France / Canada, 2012; D: Juan Diego Solanas, S: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall

In an alternate Universe, two worlds live side by side: one with normal gravity, and the other over it, with the opposite gravity. Adam falls in love with a girl from the world above, Eden, and they meet over two very high mountains that almost touch each other, but while returning to her world with a rope, the police from Adam's world shoots and Eden falls back to her world and suffers from amnesia. Years later, Adam finds a job as a facelift scientist at the Transworld company, the only link between two world in form of a skyscraper, in order to meet Eden again. He even uses the inverse matter to jump upside down and walk on her world. The company, forbidding any contact with the two worlds, banishes Adam back to his world. But thanks to his formula, his friend Bob manages to reverse Eden's gravity, so that she can live in Adam's world.

Finding an original and fresh movie concept in modern cinema is so rare that Juan Diego Solana's "Upside Down" really stands out, shines and gives the viewers a blast with its outline, even though it is overall not as great as it could - and should - have been. Its concept, where besides a normal world there is also an upside down world with people who feel antigravity, really tickles the imagination and you enjoy crunching it down in your mind, whereas at least three sequences that stem from it are so magical they send shivers down the spine: one is the frog perspective that observes Adam looking up at the building, while there is also the upside down city landscape in the "sky", standing above them ever still. Unfortunately, unlike other classics of inventive-unusual storylines, like "Groundhog Day", "The Truman Show" and "Memoirs of an Invisible Man", who use them for a broader character development (learning from your mistakes; the nature of intimacy and privacy; loneliness as a metaphor for 'invisibility' in the society), "Upside Down" has strangely inept, bland and uninventive characters.

We never get why Adam and Eden are in love. They are a humorless, uninteresting couple, and not a single scene with them at least conveys charm to the viewers, to help them understand why there is a bond between them, save for the fact that they are from opposite worlds and thus have a forbidden relationship (upper class and lower class have rarely been so symbolically presented as here, admittedly). The opening 3-minute long narration, which gives a ponderous description of the physics of the two worlds, is overlong and didactic, unnecessarily spelling all out for the audience (maybe the producers imposed that intro?) even though this is a fantasy and everything is quite clear later on in the film, anyway, which thus ignores the classic movie rule: show, don't tell. Likewise, there is a problem with the cinematography which features either too many over-saturated or under-saturated colors, though this is a general problem with the 'hyped up' look of the 21st century cinema. The ending also seems untypically underwhelming and abrupt, as if the conclusion was ordinary and predictable. Because of such underwhelming characters, without humor or spark, the film lacks an emotional dimension which disrupts its overwhelming concept. It is interesting to point out that a similar movie appeared that same year, "Patema Inverted" - and while "Upside" has more daring ideas (urinating "upwards"; Adam taking off his anti-gravity shoes in the water and then falling "up", back to the water of his world), "Patema" is a better version due to much more dear, adorable characters, though both could have been much better movies, even instant classics, if they had a more versatile exploitation of their concepts and emotional depth.


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