Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Melee in the Sky: Tarsem Singh's 'Immortals'

I recently saw 'Immortals', the new film by Tarsem Singh. It is very loosely based on Greek myth: the stories of the Titanomachy and Theseus, in particular.

For a more intelligent, discriminating review, I'll point you to Gerard Wood at Science Fiction World.

But let me say a few things.

'Immortals' is badly-scripted, and often clumsily acted. The actors do their best, but this is not a film for demonstrating a thespian's nuance.  The characters' motives are dubious, and the use of Greek myth fairly shallow.

But anyone looking for a history or acting lesson from this action film is an idiot.  Forget the script and plot. Seriously.

More importantly, the film is visually superb. Singh spoke of starting with a vision of Caravaggio, and his painterly eye is obvious.  It is a stunning piece of cinematic art, which uses contemporary technology to achieve a striking palette and exquisite scenes.

But most impressively, 'Immortals' has beautiful fights.  The gore is gratuitous, but the actors' movements, camerawork and post-production are peerless.  As Gerard Wood notes, the fights of the gods are transfixing dances of spears, chains, fists.

In this respect, 'Immortals' is similar to Zack Snyder's 300'. Both films fail as myth, history, and profound film-making. Yet both have a visceral message. '300' was, as I've written in Meanjin, chiefly a paean to esprit de corps.

'Immortals', while similarly up to its helmets in oiled pectorals, is more a celebration of muscular martial beauty: the aesthetics of combat.  One of Singh's final scenes, a melee in the sky, is a bold piece of moving Baroque art, which surprised the hell out of this film-goer.

'Immortals' is all about semblance, not reality. It is a mark of a civilised mind, as Schiller noted, to enjoy both, without confusing them.

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