The 15th Edition of the Rome Film Festival could not offer a more sensible and current opening than that choice, with Soul di Pete Docter. The new and anticipated Pixar animated film should have been released in a month, but the resurgence of Coronavirus infections and the not-so-rosy situation in theaters prompted Disney to move the release of the title directly to Disney + and to Christmas. A miraculous day for a film as wonderful as it is starring Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher in a middle school and a great jazz player with the dream of being able to perform in the best clubs in New York.
Music is his "spark" and between the high, low and central keys of the piano he finds his completeness, his door chakra that transports him directly to another dimension, getting lost in solos, embraced by sounds. However, he is at a crossroads: accept a permanent job with all the benefits or follow his wish and join a famous jazz band. Just in the moment of maximum happiness, overwhelmed with joy, Joe has an accident and his soul is transported to the Other World, at the top of the steps to go further.
The fear of leaving without having carried out his projects is however stronger than acceptance and renunciation, so much so that it is able to "pierce" the dimensional wall and end up in the pre-world, known as I-Seminary ("we are in the process of modernization") And it is here, in the pre-life space, that Joe will have to choose who to become while helping the pestiferous soul growing 22 to find its spark.
Pixar at the highest level
We had a completely wrong idea of this extraordinary Soul. From the first trailers and the concept, the film seemed to imitate the construct of Inside Out, transporting the focus from the mind and the guiding emotions at the platonic and abstract center of man - as the title then suggested -, and in part it is actually so. Docter's creativity continues this artistic and spiritual path of analysis of the human sphere, giving imaginative and refined personification to souls, to the place where they come from and to the place where they finally "fry" as if they were mosquitoes attracted to light, disappearing into an attractive cosmic white.
In doing so, the author and his team of animators create a visual show of great quality, creating a clear gap between reality and beyond. The New York imagined by Docter is sensitively truthful: a metropolis that never sleeps, full of sounds, colors, people, possibilities. A city that always seems painted between sunrise and sunset, as if to underline the extreme margins of existence that embrace everything else, what's inside. A substantially unclear and almost - if not totally - improvised season like autumn, exactly like the jazz music that envelops the "reality" of the city in the film, composed by musician Jon Batiste.
On the other hand, passing to the Seminary-I, the three-dimensional forms are overwhelmed by a more playful creative geometry, which reduces characters, places, compositions to a minimum - after all we are in the pre-world. The inspiration follows an absolutely superlative conceptual modus operandi that it eliminates the superfluous in a healthy and complex way. In this sense, in context, we are objectively on the side of Inside Out also with regard to some staging ideas (there is even a sort of limbo of souls, like that of memories), but not everything is played in this field .
There is also an interesting contrast to the visual description of New York here, as the colors cool, everything becomes calmer and softer and the sounds turn electric, more turbid and alienating and guided by the experience of Trent Reznor e Atticus Ross, leaving jazz behind. In short, a truly refined and superfine animation work that goes hand in hand with the essential, moving and universal depth of the themes dealt with in the story.
Life is the Spark
The substantial difference that separates it from the Inside Out structure is above all traceable to the presence of a real story, with a beginning, a development and an end. In terms of writing, Docter seems to delve deep into his authorial sensibility to sequence a substantial and significant body of personal reflections on existence. The classics "who are we, where do we come from, where do we go?"however, they are treated with velvet gloves, deepened through a narrative metric that seeks the simple in the complex, exploiting above all the power of the word, the sinuosity of the visual metaphor, the beauty of music.
Joe is also an extremely multifaceted and empathetic protagonist where it is easy to get lost and recognize yourself, exactly as for the indomitable 22, the problematic and growing soul that has not yet found a reason to live and catapult into the world. The two are an irresistible and curiously problematic couple, much more than in other titles of the studio, a factor that is united the maturity of the issues treated and to the adult brushstrokes that visibly stain the story, make Soul a title so valid for the whole family, but addressed with particular love to those who it already has a medium important path behind it.
In truth, one could even speak of a generational clash of existence: who is early at the end and who is still voluntarily at the beginning. Similar yet contrary fears forced to add up, confront each other, endure and finally help each other. They fill each other and factors change, up to a great achievement. Soul obviously speaks of souls: tormented, ascended, brilliant, lost. It is a universal film where everyone can reflect and trace a particular moment of his life to analyze and field together with those of Joe and 22.
One moment in particular embodies the whole meaning of the operation e of Docter's animated therapy, the one where it is impossible to hold back, where it is extraordinarily easy to identify and cry to free oneself in the meantime of one of the more rare and prodigious cinematic caresses than Pixar. The one where there is the fall and rise and the warmth of the film's soul meets that of ours, exploding in a composition that is a real bow and hymn to life in its amazing and mysterious complexity. As if it were a petal that suddenly detaches, surprising us. And that's where the full realization of the masterpiece is.