"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue


06 Apr 2002

I think we need a warm up exercise before getting into this review. Sit up straight, feet flat on the ground. Head up. Repeat the following phrase out loud, clearly, five times, as fast as you can. Ready? Go:

"Stellan Skarsgård stars."

How many times did you make it through without getting mush mouth? Excellent. And now -- on with the review!

Stellan Skarsgård stars

Stellan Skarsgård
Photo from the official web site

It's an interesting idea: take four cameras, put each on one character in a story. Then film the story without doing any editing, and show all four images on the screen at once. You control the viewers' attention by turning up the sound track for one of the images, but not so much that it drowns out the others. You can choose which one you want to follow. You'd think there would be complete anarchy on the screen, but it sorts itself out quite nicely. If there's one thing wrong with this film, it's that there are too many characters in it. Holly Hunter plays a film executive who gets to hit only one note with her character. What a shame, given that she can actually act. Unlike Julian Sands who is cast as a physiotherapist who spends the entire film rubbing people. If you've ever seen any of his other films, you'll know this sort of thing fits him to a T without being overtaxing. Even Kyle MacLachlan drops in, doing a fairly decent turn as a business acquaintance of Skarsgård's character. And the charming Glenne Headly appears from time to time as a therapist for Skarsgård's ex-wife.
If there's one thing wrong with this film, it's that the story simply isn't strong enough. As the end notes of the film say, it was improved by the actors around a general story structure. Does it work? Maybe only a little, but I'm so happy to see someone trying something new that it's hard to find a lot of fault with the film, despite what I've written here. When I left the theatre, I could only marvel at the organization this film needed to make. To synchronize that many players in different locations so that everyone hit their marks exactly when they had to -- that's a nice bit of directing. The story mostly revolves around a film production office. Stellan Skarsgård plays a producer whose marriage has dissolved, leaving him in a poor state. Salma Hayek plays an actress wannabe (there's a stretch) who is willing to sleep with him to get an audition for a part. This bothers her obsessive lover, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn who is convinced that she is cheating on her (and she's right).


Related Links

Timecode (Official site) gives you a good feel for the film
Timecode (IMDB)