Inspector Berkley has had five murder cases recently, but the latest is a little different. There is no motive, no murder weapon and only a single item stolen: the victim’s brain.
“Possible Worlds” (2000) is a gorgeous, enigmatic sci-fi film with an inventive take on the parallel universes theme. It’s a surefire hit for SF intellectuals who prefer thought-provoking writing to glitzy special effects. The hipster crowd should take note, as this is perfect material for impressing your peers. It belongs on this generation’s short list of requisite cult SF, though it remains unduly obscure in the US. In Canada, where the film was made by talented director Robert Lepage, it was nominated for a Best Picture Genie.
1) Cube (also from Canada)
2) Dark City
3) Donnie Darko
4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5) The Fountain
7) Possible Worlds
9) Save the Green Planet!
10) Solaris (2002 remake)
Even the dialogue has a whimsical monotone, a little too heavy with coded portents, but cleverly woven into the film’s metaphysical themes. The script has bits of Becket thrown in and scraps of other abstract thinkers as well, and though the odd delivery can occasionally feel like a muddled mindgame, the top-notch cast smooths over the rough spots.
Inspector Berkley: “Williams, suppose the man you were talking to were having an affair with the wife.”
Berkley : “Why would he remove the victim’s brain?”
[SPOILERS, this paragraph only] “Possible Worlds” uses a premise that has appeared elsewhere, specifically in “Open Your Eyes” (1997) and its American remake “Vanilla Sky” (2002). Both of those films, in turn, borrow many ideas exactly out of Philip K. Dick’s 1969 novel “Ubik,” without attributing any credit. While “Ubik” is a fantastic novel and a deserving SF classic, neither of its cinematic progeny quite lives up to the potential. “Possible Worlds” was originally written in 1990 (predating the other two films) and with more diverse influences. It develops its ideas in different directions and provides what I consider to be the definitive take on the world-inside-the-mind concept. I would guess that Cameron Crowe was familiar with “Possible Worlds” when he made “Vanilla Sky,” considering the conspicuous cameo role (as an LE case worker) played by Tilda Swinton.
There is a lot to say about the film-craft in “Possible Worlds” if I were going to really cover the ethereal music, the graceful camera movements and the mismatched sequencing. Instead, I’d like to spend a little extra time just admiring the beauty of my favorite scene transition. It takes us from the new age art of Joyce’s apartment into one of George’s dream sequences:
If you’re familiar with any of the other films in my modern-hipster SF list above, then you already have a reasonable idea of whether you will like this film or not. I give it a hearty thumbs up and am eager to start lending it around to friends (sadly, it is no available on Netflix, but it can be found easily on Amazon). The only reason why I haven’t already passed it on was that I wanted to take screenshots and I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it in my DVD drive without watching the entire thing again.
Walrus Rating: 9.5