Thursday, August 1, 2013

Upstream Color: An Explanatory Prologue

The most brilliantly told science fiction story I have ever seen on screen.  While Primer, Shane Carruth's previous film is confusing, Upstream Color is sublime, brilliant, full of insight of human nature.

Many have seen the film and seen images of beauty and heard the ambiance music yet considered it a Malick-ish essay or a dream.  However, it is a narrative, full of detail but minimizing dialogue, not explaining anything of what it is telling you.  It is like a modernist science fiction tale, full of implications, but we have to draw the conclusion.

Rather than re-tell the tale, perhaps I can give you a few science (fiction) paragraphs for the background of the tale:

We all have a portion of our brains called mirror neurons.  They allow us to copy, within our minds, what we see another doing.  This is why, when someone we know yawns, we often feel compelled to yawn as well.  And why, when we watch a sport, we are exalted or miserable depending on the outcome of our team.  We repeat the experiences in our own minds and then own them.  This isn't fiction, it is science.  Look it up.

Suppose someone discovered a drug, say, from a plant, that could increase the effectiveness of this brain function.  To such a degree that we instantly know what another person is doing, and our actions can repeat theirs precisely, or we can experience what they are experiencing.  And if this drug is fed to a parasite, then if you can access the experiences of the parasite, you will access the experiences of another person, no matter what the distance between you.

Now let's go the next step and say that there is a Sampler.  Like a sampler of sounds, he collects experiences and lives off of them, perhaps creates art from them, like ambiance music.  But to collect these lives, he must kidnap people (or have them kidnapped), place a parasite in them until the drug and their internal organs are united and then he removes the parasites and places them into another compatible living organism.  

That's enough.  Now watch the film.  It is simply amazing.

My favorite parts are where those sampled are all at sea because they are experiencing things that have nothing to do with what their senses know around them.  They are so assured and so confused at the same time.  At times we have experienced this, but in this film it is explained in a fictional way.

I will be shocked if I do not make this my best film of the year.  It is the best film I've seen that has been released in the last year and a half, that's for certain.

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