Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rome, Across the Universe

Good writing stays with you.

As simple as that. Whether it's the characters, the plot, the emotion, the setting;there's something about the writing that resonates through time.It's different for everyone. But I want to be that kind of writer. One whose work you can't forget.

The tagline for Across the universe reads All you need is love. A movie created entirely from Beatles songs, it was a brilliant execution of story, character and a political climate that is as relevant today as it was in the 60's. It blew me away. I came home and wrote notes so that I wouldn't forget a thing. I needn't have worried. Everything not only stayed with me but revealed more as time went on.

The music, the artwork, cinematography, choreography - it was all brilliant, rich, detailed. Evocative. But you'll laugh at what stood out the most for me. The transitions. They were always true to the scenes. The scene that was ending led naturally to the next that was beginning. Music tied them together, a snip of dialogue but most often it was a visual cue. The clouds above their heads spun around to become the white load in the industrial washer at the laundromat. It doesn't sound like much but when you see it, you'll know exactly what I mean. I struggle with scene breaks so that could be why it was such a stand-out aspect of the film.

The music added a point of reference to underscore each scene with a depth that comes from a shared history. The music and lyrics are used to carry the viewer along a journey. They evocate emotion, place and character with a seamless integration to the plot. I wonder how it plays to a much younger audience. The theme is universal, relevant to every era, but I'm not sure I recognized that idea when I was a teenager or even my early twenties.

Still, a good story transcends all that.

The HBO miniseries ROME depicts a time that is ancient. None of us were alive then to be influenced by our memories of that era. We have a level playing field as viewers.

Despite the sex, violence and breath-taking set design, this was a character driven piece. Don't let anyone tell you any different. Each character, from the Emperor Caesar down to the Roman centurion and the slave girl he loved, was a well-developed, three-dimensional being with flaws and traits that made them real.

There were no clear-cut good or bad guys. They all had layers, depths, and motivation. They each felt love, disappointment, greed, anger, compassion, insecurity, affection and even mercy. Each one of them was merely human, doing what they thought was best,using the tools they had whether it was sex, violence or power. One of the heroes killed his wife and cursed his children into slavery. Another hero murdered Caesar. One of the villains made gifts for the children in the slums. Hero or villain depended upon how you perceived the characters. The writers let you decide for yourself.

While each scene was truly a feast for the senses (my nose strained to catch some of those scents believe me) every action no matter how seemingly insignificant played a much bigger part somewhere down the road in the series. Nothing was wasted.

That was another thing about both shows. Everything meant something. Perhaps that's one of the reasons they're both so memorable. I was transfixed, mesmerized, focused on every nuance and detail throughout every moment that played on the screen. I was distant enough to be comfortable but immersed none-the-less.

Brilliant writing. Absolutely brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:46 PM


    I'm glad you found ACROSS THE UNIVERSE to be an experience, since I raved about it to you. :-) A read a review where the reviewer said it went down best with a big slug of liquor. I felt she missed something there. Maybe the liquor got in the way. ;-) For me, it was pure art. I was never a huge Beatles fan; but in this film, every single piece of music held new meaning for me.

    Excellent post.