Kingdom of the Sun is mostly set in a dream world. Most of the main characters interactions come off dream like, something that bleeds into the real world. Being sun and lion aspected, everything tends to be in my mind in golds and yellows and browns. There’s a visual weirdness to the whole idea that I can see fine in my head. I’m always failing to put into words the things I can see so easily in my mind. Almost like recalling a dream.
I finished draft one of Kingdom of the Sun, and wondered what a film version of it would look like. I think cinematic at the best of times.
Then I saw The Fall.
The Fall is a film by a director known as Tarsem Singh that started in music videos. He has a very specific sort of look to his films that made me kick myself when I saw them. They’re much like I had imagined Cay’s world, in terms of the colors he uses. He’s done a number of films, but only his first three have the same sort of look.
The Cell is a much maligned film staring Jennifer Lopez, who plays a psychologist who enters the minds of coma victims, to draw them out. When she goes into the mind of a serial killer however, she is confronted with much beautiful weirdness, and a rather ok horror film. The look of the film is very unique in a way Tarsem became famous for. The soundtrack (which I just listened to recently) enhances that weird with the same indian and middle eastern influences that Tarsem puts into his imagery.
The Fall is the film that put me onto Tarsem, and is hands down his best, both on plot and look. In it, a 1915s stuntman is put in hospital after breaking his legs, and encounters a young girl. He recounts the story to her of 5 heroes in their hunt for the exceedingly evil Governor Odious. But there’s more reason to his storytelling than just entertainment.
Visually, the film is stunning. The colors, the way he uses images, the images he uses. The storytelling sections of the film (like The Cell) are dreamlike and often bizarre, scenes bleeding into others in incredible ways.
Immortals is easily his most commercial film, and it says a lot that I had to check out a plot summary for what the film was about. It centers around Theseus, one of few survivors of an attack on his village, as he hunts out King Hyperion in revenge. There’s a lot going on in the film, and looks just as gorgeous, but fails in a lot of ways. Looking pretty is actually all the film had going for it, and in terms of Tarsem’s great signature look, it even fell weak in that.
The one thing I can console myself with as I move into draft 2 of Kingdom of the Sun is that I can try again to make things look as beautiful as they are in my head. But these three films serve as a reminder that it’s possible to pull off (at least on some merit of a budget) the weirdness that goes on inside my mind.
Check them out. Even if they’re not your thing on plot, they’re worth checking out for how lovely a film can look. Honorable mentions would include Curse of the Golden Flower (Chinas most expensive ever film) and Hero (which I would argue looks better than House of Flying Daggers).