Monday, November 10, 2008
When I saw the name Tesseract advertising this film, it immediately caught my attention. A Tesseract is the four dimensional analog of the cube. The movie begins by explaining the meaning of the title, explaining that a square can be unraveled to form a line, a cube can be unraveled to form a cross and proceeds to show the Tesseract unfolded to a structure made of eight cubes that resembles a 3-dimensional cross with cross-arms that point in four directions. This image is actually one of 261 “nets” that the shape can take. What intrigued me was the name in relationship to the film. A mathematical term that refers to four dimensions was most likely used to identify a story that followed four intersecting paths as opposed to a single linear story. As such, Tesseract follows the lives of four individuals connected to the Heaven Hotel in Thailand. Their paths intersect throughout the movie, often jumping track and following a different path.
This film begins by showing a white guy (Sean, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), apparently tweaking in a seedy hotel room. His scantily furnished room has a bare-bones look. The film jumps and skips, filming Sean from various angles as he paces his room. Sean eventually leaves the room, passing Rosa (Saskia Reeves) who is checking in. The film jumps track via flashback and eventually coming back to Rosa, who is helped to her room by a young bellboy named Wit (Alexander Rendel). Wit likes to go through things in people’s rooms while they are gone, fencing them through his connections on the street. Wit agrees to be interviewed by Rosa, who is a psychologist studying Thai children. During an interview, Wit reveals a dream in which he sees a girl who has been shot. However, his dream has already been shown as actual events when Wit walks into the hotel room of Lita (Lena Christensen) a lethal assassin hired to locate stolen drugs. The lives of these four individuals intermingle throughout the film as the lines of the Tesseract seem to intersect to the past and back, following different scenes involving the four main characters.
A Tesseract is not necessarily a stable figure like a cube or a square. The image can collapse in on itself and expose its various surfaces through movement of the cells. It is actually an interesting concept. This film seemed to borrow heavily from that concept. The flow of the movie felt like a story that happens in stages as opposed to a linear story. This concept set Tesseract apart from other films. It would have been easy for this movie to have devolved to an incoherent mess. There is a snapshot like sound effect and stop action filming that provides a visual and audio cue to assist in tracking the stages of the film. The director, Oxide Pang, did an excellent job of connecting the dots in order to present a story that doesn’t lose the viewers. The film also had the feel of a comic book at times, using extreme close up shots and stop action to create a surreal effect. Instead of introducing a character, you may simply be introduced to an extreme close up of that character’s shoe. The camera angles were also another comic book inspired effect. The subject matter isn’t always perfectly framed and the camera often jumps from overhead shots to point of view to straight on shots. The camera work was excellent.
The writing in this film was exceptional. In order to create continuity, a great deal of creativity was injected into this film. The writing formed the foundation for the rest of the movie to build upon. The story line was not exceptional, relating events following a botched drug transaction. What made this story exceptional were the characters and the development of the plot from multiple vantage points. The characters were interesting, providing a bit of dimension. Some characters were a bit more developed than others, but considering the comic book feel of this movie, the characters were further developed than I might have otherwise expected. The dialogue was also strong. Much of the conversation is done in English and does not have sub-titling. The exchanges that take place in Thai are sub-titled, creating a two-language film with half of it sub-titled. I actually liked the effect. The sub-plots were minor and added to the overall quality of the film. There may have been room to add a wee bit of dimension to some of the characters, but not to the interesting backgrounds of the characters. As a whole, the writing was spot on.
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