DIRECTED BY: Enki Bilal
FEATURING: Linda Hardy, Thomas Kretschmann, Thomas M. Pollard (voice), Charlotte Rampling
PLOT: The Egyptian god Horus shows up in a pyramid floating above Manhattan in 2095 and
possesses the thawed body of a cryogenically frozen political prisoner to search for a blue haired woman.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: It might make the List for the outrageous premise mixing Egyptian mythology and futurist fiction, for the bizarre mingling of live actors with CG characters, and for the confusing storyline which makes the entire film seem like it might be a pagan god’s bad dream after having eaten a tainted planet for a midnight snack.
COMMENTS: The visual ambition of Immortal sometimes surpasses its budget, but it’s always beautifully designed; take the vision of a blue haired pixie women balancing on a girder as she ambles through a cityscape of gray steel art deco skyscrapers. Immortal‘s Manhattan is a wondrously vertical place of soaring buildings, flying cars, and floating billboards. No matter how attractive the digital backdrops, though, the watcher is likely to be taken aback by the fact that almost everyone on the screen looks like an animated avatar from the “Final Fantasy” video game series. You might expect to see computer generated figures portraying the aliens, mutants and ancient Egyptian gods that populate Immortal‘s world, but most of the major human players are completely animated, while the occasional disposable extra of no importance is played by a real live actor. Charlotte Rampling‘s meddling doctor (with a hairdo made from melted black plastic) is no more important to the tale than a police inspector searching for what he believes to be a serial killer, but one is animated and the other isn’t; it’s disconcerting when they perform scenes opposite each other. The limited emoting ability of computer-generated images makes them fairly creepy when they’re among their own kind; putting them next to real people highlights their uncanny plastic imperfections. The seemingly arbitrary decision to animate some characters and use actors for others makes for a strange atmosphere, whether that was the intention or not. Not that this scenario of an ancient god hunting for a woman through a futuristic city needed much strangening up. The movie begins with the appearance of a giant pyramid floating in the sky, but no one in town pays it too much attention: this is the Big Apple, where everybody minds their own business. Besides, New Yorkers in 2095 are jaded to mysterious apparitions: for several months, Central Park has been taken over by an unexplained extra-dimensional “incursion” that’s turned it into an arctic wasteland. This teeming city is the perfect place for a guy like the falcon-headed god Horus to go about his business of searching for a mate without attracting too much attention. Along the journey we’re treated to numerous odd touches: Horus’ fellow gods playing parlor games as they wait for him back at the pyramid; red hammerheaded aliens who swim through the skies; scenes shot in blurry, druggy “Jill-vision”; and half-explored subplots about political intrigues and the sinister role of the omnipresent Eugenics corporation in future society. We are thrust into Bilal’s imaginary world with no explanations, and it takes a first act of near total confusion before we can start to get our bearings on the setting and the story. “It’s almost like in one of those Greek tragedies… all of the elements will fall into place,” promises one character, whose reason for appearing in Immortal (Ad Vitam), ironically, never becomes absolutely clear. All of the elements never fall into place—just who was John, anyway?—but I’m guessing if you’re intrigued by the idea of an amoral bird-headed deity stalking the streets of a moody computer-generated metropolis, the trippy sci-fi experience is going to outweigh your need for closure on a few loose plot ends.
Much of the look Enki Bilal creates for Immortal is reminiscent of the imaginary world fellow French national Luc Besson created for The Fifth Element, from its junky flying taxis to the mysterious, hot, semi-divine pixie-woman at the center of the story. The somber tone is very different, however, and Immortal remains a unique world despite its influences (Blade Runner is another obvious touchstone). Bilal adapted the story from his own graphic novels, and the setting is clearly rich, with much more background detail than can be revealed in Immortal‘s 90 minute run time. The more thorough, trilogy-length treatment of this unique universe given in the novels would undoubtedly make more sense, but probably be less appealing to lovers of weird movies.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by reader “Lili.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)