21 Grams (2003)

Every Hair on your Head

One of the key things a storyteller needs to decide is the tense of the story. Is it something that happened in the past, is happening now or will/could happen? Each of these bestows riches on a film and we have some masterpieces of each. Krzysztof Kieslowski explored these each in turn in his three colours trilogy: past present and future.

Inarritu is determined to have it all three ways and has developed a mastery of sorts in his technique of simultaneously presenting all three. His trick is to have three main characters who live in each tense: a con who lives in the past, a widow/druggie who reacts only to the present and a mathematician (what else?) who creates his own future.

These interact with each other as characters but also as tenses, teasing, anticipating and explaining. This is not as artful as the ambiguity of the three tenses (particularly the conditional future) in “Irreversible”, but is far more masterful narrative folding.

In this game of meta rock paper and scissors, Sean Penn has the most unconventional assignment. And as our leading folded actor, he’s the man. Clea DuVall continues her career as designated watcher. Naomi had an identical tense persona in Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”.

Posted in 2004

Ted’s Evaluation — 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.


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