Monday, February 6, 2012
Without Love There is Nothing.
Director: David Mackenzie
Written by: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Ewen Bremner, Connie Nielsen, Stephen Dillane, Denis Lawson, Liz Strange, Richard Mack.
Running time: 92 min.
It is to my understanding that this has been released in cinemas this week in America. It shall be released on DVD in NZ on March 22nd by Madman Entertainment.
Just for one moment, imagine this: you can no longer taste anything, feel anything, see anything, smell anything or hear anything. One by one, your sensory perceptions are taken away. How would you react? Would you give up, just as your senses are? Would you learn to live with it? Would you realise all of the things that your senses have made you miss, or miss the senses that let you explore the world? There is a moment in Perfect Sense where lovers Susan (Eva Green) and Michael (Ewan McGregor) are sitting in the bath and take a huge bite out of a bar of soap. Crazy, you say? They can't taste anything, much less smell anything. They can do whatever they like, eat whatever they like. It's an interesting point that the film brings up: if we lost our taste, would that bring out an endless supply of things we could eat? The film is constantly doing that, bringing up all of these interesting points involving how helpful our senses are or how they could be holding us back. Yet, in most cases, the film also fails to capitalize on them, leading to what is quite a middling experience, but interesting all the same.
Perfect Sense is a film that sits somewhere in between the medical paranoia of Contagion and the apocalyptic nihilism and beauty of Melancholia. First and foremost, it is a romance between Susan, a scientist and Michael, a chef, who meet just as this medical epidemic is taking over the world. They grow closer as everyone around them is disappearing, and as their senses slowly dissipate, starting with smell. But will their senses end up controlling their relationship as they prepare for the inevitable? No, this isn't a lovey-dovey story where there's endless amounts of hope, and love defeats all, including and especially an unstoppable epidemic. At first, you kinda feel like Susan and Michael shouldn't really be together, as she is distant and he isn't the kind of man looking for a long-term relationship - neither of them believe in love, but somehow they are thrust into it. And in some ways, everything that's happening around them forces them to appreciate love a little more, even though everything is working against them. Yet, as I said, this doesn't offer you hope or present Nicholas Sparks-esque emotional manipulation. It is a frightening look at people who came together at the wrong time, and must lose everything before they're allowed to lose themselves.
When Susan and Michael are at the forefront of the movie, it succeeds. However, when the movie starts trying to offer medical explanations and attempts to make sense (no pun intended) or the disease, it falters. It does offer many scenes of panic and poverty with mini-montages scattered throughout the film, which reminded me of a more morbid version of the 'this is what people look like...' montages from McGregor's other film, Beginners. They look just about accurate and are realistically terrifying, but anything that goes further than that doesn't quite take. The film almost doesn't need an outside look at all of the damage the disease is doing; the film-making is enough to make it hit home. As the characters lose their senses, the audience loses their senses too. As their taste went, my taste was somewhat missing, as watching the characters bite into soap would have made me squirm, but I felt nothing for it. When they lost their hearing, there's barely any actual sound in the movie at all, apart from the narration from Susan. I applauded Contagion for making me more aware of the germs around me. But Perfect Sense goes one step further: it makes me more aware of the world around me.
The film takes an awful long time to get going, but the final two thirds make up for the lousy first one. In that sense, it is a bit like Melancholia, and could have easily been directed by Lars von Trier for all the nihilism scattered throughout the film and the beauty that lies beneath such sadness. David Mackenzie, whose last film was the awful Ashton Kutcher film Spread, does a perfectly good job, though, creating what is almost a poem of sadness and desperation, rather than an exposition heavy thriller. Eva Green and Ewan McGregor both give great performances, even though their chemistry isn't always in check, which is probably a good thing considering the nature of their character's relationship. It makes me sad, though, that McGregor continues to go largely unnoticed for his brilliant work in any film. Give him the right role, like either this, Beginners or The Ghost Writer and he excels. He's a much better actor than people give him credit for.
Don't expect a happy ending where the virus is solved and everyone goes back to normal. The end is perfectly ambiguous, but it struck me in a way that I had hoped for more, but knew that there was no way the movie could have gone on. Instead, I played a scenario out in my head of what could have happened; and that was a terrifying place to be.
What I got: