In 10 Words or Less
All you need is love...and a warm gun
Loves: Gorgeous films, Interesting original concepts
Likes: Claire Danes circa-"My So-Called Life"
Dislikes: Most Sean Penn films
Hates: Dogme95 Manifesto
I will admit, I didn't know much about Thomas Vinterberg before watching this film, but I knew he was one of the filmmakers who helped unleash the Dogme95 Manifesto. There's nothing inherently wrong with the concept of Dogme95, but when it gives Harmony Korine a reason to make a movie, it automatically becomes evil. That's not enough to put Vinterberg in filmmaker prison, but he definitely is on parole.
With It's All About Love, the director takes a 180-degree turn away from Dogme95, and presents any almost Hollywood-flavored film, with big names, though they are admittedly from the fringe. Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator) and Claire Danes (My So-Called Life) are John and Elena, an estranged Polish couple (with optional accents) who are headed for a divorce. She is a world-renowned ice skater, and her handlers have a great say as to what goes on in their lived. As John flies to New York from Europe to deliver the divorce papers, the world is dying.
This is not an Independence Day or Mars Attacks-type death. Instead, Earth is exhibiting some bizarre changes in temperature and gravity, and people are suddenly dying for no apparent reason. In ways that couldn't be called subtle, it's suggested that the lack of love among humans is causing this disaster, and John and Elena are a perfect example of this. As their relationship goes, so goes the environment around them. It's the kind of concept you'd find in a Ray Bradbury short story, and one that's handled relatively well. It's not a special effects showcase, and some of the examples of the trouble are shockingly direct, especially one early on. Problem is, the entire movie is informed with this dread, so one is on a slow winding ride down the mountain.
The second part of John and Elena's tale is a but more bizarre than the first, so much so, that I don't think I truly understand what happened. I won't give it away, but suffice to say, I don't think Danes, and her mighty morphing power accent, was the one to pull it off. If you can get into the first concept, your suspension of disbelief may be high enough to accept the second.
This film is not standard movieplex fare, nor is it art-theater programming like Vinterberg's The Celebration. Instead, it's a highly-polished mindbender with a poet's vision; one that flirts with science-fiction and end-of-the-world ideas of the future. The storyline takes several turns, often without regard as to whether the audience can keep pace, but at the same time, moves with the speed of an iceberg. Several passages would have had Kubrick looking for more action. But despite this, the film kept my attention, the way a mobile soothes an infant. I couldn't wait to see the picture Vinterberg would paint for me next.
Watching all of this from his position as an observer, another part of the movie I won't reveal, is Sean Penn, as John's brother. His "narration" of the film helps develop the overall feel and to somewhat hammer home the concept of what's happening to the planet, but his detachment from what's going on, as well as the fluid nature of his role, doesn't create the kind of impact that was likely expected of his character, despite his interesting origins. Like the audience, he can only watch and guess, and in the end, he ends up as lost as most everyone else.
Packed in your standard-issue black keepcase, It's All About Love arrives on one DVD, with a promotional Focus Features leaflet. The disc itself features a simple, yet beautiful animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the film, select scenes and adjust the languages. There's just one audio track, an English 5.1 mix, with three subtitle tracks, in English, Spanish and French, and no closed captioning. The scene selection menu includes still previews and titles for each chapter.
This film looks absolutely amazing on DVD, with a very wide 2:35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There's some incredible visuals in It's All About Love, and this DVD displays them very well, with excellent clarity and a near-complete lack of grain. The only concern is some pixilation that occurs along thin straight lines. The palette tends toward a colder look, with uneven lighting, and the disc presents the look and color very well. Dirt and damage are absent from this disc.
The sound is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The mix doesn't get too adventurous, using the surround speakers mainly to pump up the music or to enhance sound effects, but it does a good job at delivering a deep sound experience. The ice skating scene toward the end, and the scenes leading up to the climax do a particularly good job of using the sound field to proper effect.
There is not a single extra included on this DVD. Perhaps here is where Vinterberg chose to stick to his simple Dogme95 philosophy?
The Bottom Line
Vinterberg managed to create a beautiful-looking film about love that doesn't have much heart, much less anything truly interesting in terms of story. Instead, there's a mishmash of concepts that are promising and creative that jut up against each other. If one made a list of the ideas presented in this film, it would look like the results of some twisted psyche test, not a plot outline. The DVD presents the film in excellent quality, but without a bit of bonus material. This is purely a rental for those more interested in the aesthetics of film, rather than silly ideas like plot progression and emotion.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.