Possible Worlds (2000) Poster

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The Matrix for a more thoughtful crowd
Brian Bagnall15 September 2004
You will know in the first ten minutes if this film is for you or not. Possible Worlds explores themes of the mind in a science-fiction setting. A man seems all knowing at the start of the film, and impresses his interviewers by quickly calculating the solution to several complex problems posed to him, all without a calculator. Later we find out he is not super intelligent, but retains memories from all his other selves in parallel universes. I suppose at least one of his alternate selves must have gone through the interview already, so he just pulls on that memory.

He also explores a relationship with the same woman, who is strikingly different in each of the parallel worlds. In one, she is loving and compassionate, in another scattered and distant. The story is never showy, gimmicky, or clichéd, unlike what we have come to expect from Hollywood.

Visually, there are not many films better than this. Each scene is so beautiful it's almost as though every inch of the scene was meticulously composed by hand. Some scenes lingered without dialogue, and I wanted them to stay longer just so I could appreciate the scene more. The film leaves a definite mood long after the credits end.
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A multi-layered mystery/sci-fi/drama centering around a murder.
Fedor Petrovic (fedor8)31 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's one of those extremely rare highly intelligent and original movies. Visually excellent to a fault, but it's the story that dominates. It doesn't take very long for the movie to get quite complicated; it's a complex movie that requires a lot of thought, speculation and guessing - and that's part of the fun with movies like these. And when it seems that no ending in the world could possibly make everything previous add up - it does. The ending connects everything neatly. (That is, if you "get" it.) Plus, the script is "fair" and gives the viewer clues as to what is really going on with the main character. The film makes so much sense on so many levels. There are many interesting ideas presented; one could analyze this movie and the ideas it presents for hours.

The last scene of the movie will confuse some people but is actually rather simple: the main character is dreaming his last dream - of sitting on the beach with his wife, watching the ocean - and when a light appears on the horizon that light is the man's brain giving a signal on the machine that is keeping his brain alive. And when the light extinguishes, the man says "thank God", commenting on his own death; he is relieved that his bizarre existence is finally coming to an end. It is coming to an end because his wife decided to let the machine be switched off so that the brain can finally cease to live.

The film is probably the best in a series of excellent movies that came out around the late 90s, and that deal with reality: "eXistenZ", "Dark City", the Spanish "Open Your Eyes", "The 13th Floor" (1999), "Fight Club" and "Eyes Wide Shut". Time will make classics out of all of them.

This is one of the best movies I have seen in years, and certainly one of the most thought-provoking. If you're looking for something other than the usual overrated, pointless, and dull Oscar-winning trash, check this one out. Good soundtrack.
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Fulfilling and engaging
Julianna3 March 2001
A stunning film. Thought-provoking, funny and engaging. The opening credits pulled me and I was left breathless at the end. The cinematography is amazing, and works extremely well with the plot. Some plot summaries have made the storyline sound like Sliding Doors, but it is a wholly different movie. Possible Worlds deals with several issues (the main one being alternate lives) and has many sub-plots, all of which fall together wonderfully. Go for the eye-candy, the philisophical dialouge, the acting, the directing or the plot--but see it!
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Open your mind
Blackwatch31 May 2004
This film while being a low budget indy work stinks of quality. Some of the camera shots feel like paintings presented within the story. Light and colour are very well used. The story well... check it out. It may force you to watch it twice but it's worth it. I run a small film watching group for eight or nine friends, we watch a film selected by different member each week with no vetos, this gives us an eclectic mix of movies. Of course it is becoming a point of pride to please and impress the group with your choice. Possible worlds has been one of the best finds from the group and I am very grateful to have been shown it. Thanks Ben
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An absorbing, thought-provoking and funny film
Mothra-42 October 2000
Possible Worlds played yesterday at the Vancouver International Film Festival to a packed theatre. From the opening credits onward, I was completely absorbed in this film. Possible Worlds moves between being shocking, romantic, eerie, and funny. And not only is this film very entertaining, it also gets you thinking about some pretty weighty ideas - like what it means to live, and the infinite possibilities of life. If you love movies that make you think while they entertain you, go see this film!

Tom McCamus gives his best performance to date. And Tilda Swinton is perfect in the role of Joyce - her best since 'Orlando'!
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One of the best philosophy films ever made...
Possible Worlds is a low budget independent film by French director Robert Lepage, it is a surreal murder mystery which appears to have been made primarily to explore several different philosophical notions. It begins with two detectives arriving at the scene of a crime, the victim George Barber (Tom McCamus) has been murdered and his brain removed from his body. We then meet George Barber, alive and well. Since he was a boy, it turns out, George has had the ability to switch between different Possible Worlds at will. The love of his life is played by Tilda Swinton and we follow George in several different worlds meet the different versions of her and try to woo them all. In one world she is a shy scientist, in another she is a confident business woman. What makes these very different women the same person? Well, thats partially what the film is about. Simultaniously we follow the detectives as they hunt down George's missing brain and meet a mad scientist who experiments with extracted animal brains (Gabriel Gascon).

The 'Possible Worlds' from which this film takes its name is a concept of contemporary philosophy, it is a method of discussing the nature of possibility and necessity. Instead of saying "I might have gone to the shops", one says "there is a possible world in which I went to the shops". This allows for greater clarity of discussion about the nature of possibility. One of the more eccentric lines of thought in philosophy is idea that Possible Worlds actually exist (technically they only possibly exist, but every possibility is an actuality for that possibility... yes, this is the simplified way of discussing it!). The concept is very similar to the quantum mechanics notion of multiple/parallel dimensions, as explored in a great deal of science fiction, and is the central premise of this film.

The film can be best described as a cross between Darren Arranofsky's Pi and the cult sci-fi Primer. In places it is distinctly Lynchian, such as this dream sequence (which is the only part of the film available on youtube, there isn't even a trailer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7odlad7TOc Although the film isn't particularly complex (and it isn't as deliberately convoluted as Primer which, although enjoyable, tries too hard to make its dialogue impenetrable) following George through the various worlds and tying the different plot strands together does require the audience to concentrate.

For a student of modern philosophy or a person fairly well read in the subject, this film will be highly enjoyable. While it contains slightly heavy handed brain-in-a-vat allusions, the film primarily focuses on discussions of identity and possibility. Many different ideas are brought in regarding the nature of consciousness, evolutionary development of the mind, and physical embodiment and the film makes no attempt to give simple or easy answers to these. However, for somebody not read in such areas, the film is likely to be frustratingly dull and pointless. The film does not try to overly explain or reduce these notions: such an attempt would be pointless anyway, it is dealing with some of the most difficult material ever written, 5 minutes of exposition isn't going to benefit anyone. But all of the films dialogue is very clear and simple and it never throws in unnecessary technical terms (like Primer) or tries to fool its audience. In spite of this, I do fear its subject matter will alienate many viewers.

This dichotomy is perhaps best seen in the film's ending (which I wont reveal here). The film has a sad, melancholic ending, in which the story's plots come together and the characters journeys receive closure. This is good, and it does mean even somebody unfamiliar with the concepts it is exploring can still enjoy the film. But at the same time, it could appear to be wrapping up profound questions with an overly simplistic conclusion. The ending of the film is good, but I think to truly appreciate the film is to realise that (as with many great films) its conclusion is in fact the least important aspect of it.

Possible Worlds is an excellent film with a very niche audience; it is to philosophy as Primer is to science. It contains enough surreal imagery and dark, dry humour for any audience member to enjoy, and I should of course point out that reading philosophy is by no means necessary for somebody to understand or engage with philosophical concepts, any more than one needs to be an art scholar to enjoy good art. But its target audience, as the name suggests, is those who are directly familiar with the material that this film is exploring, and if you are a fan of David Lewis, Wittgenstein, Kant or Descartes then this film really is essential viewing.
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Very interesting. Thought provoking. Surprising.
rdoronr4 December 2003
Very interesting.Thought provoking.Surprising. Philosopical mystery, that touches the very essence of our existence: "I think and therefore I exist". The brain/mind is everything, and all the world that we "sense" is created inside it by stimuli that may be of false origins.
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A film without any reason to exist
Figaro-65 February 2001
Robert Lepage takes an intriguing, clever premise and then steadfastly refuses to develop it for what seems a very long time, finally offering a resolution that follows the path of least interest. I cannot think of any element of this movie that has not been done better elsewhere, or a single compelling reason to see this film instead of any other. Take special pains to avoid this movie if you have seen one or more of: Dark City, Lost Highway, Groundhog Day, or Brain Dead (the Bill Pullman / Bill Paxton one). If you have it will only frustrate you to see such similar ideas, done so well elsewhere, done so poorly here. If you have not seen those movies, see them instead of this one. If you want to see a good Tom McCamus movie, rent "I Love a Man in Uniform". If you want a good Tilda Swinton movie, rent "Orlando". If you're interested in Robert Lepage, see any other Robert Lepage movie (but especially "Le Confessional"). If you want a good Genie-nominated movie, see "Maelstrom" or "waydowntown" or "New Waterford Girl".

Lepage treats his ultimately flimsy story with the naive glee of someone who has never read any science fiction, ever, or even seen a decent Star Trek episode. Like many previous non-SF artists who have done SF, they believe the sheer novelty of an odd premise can sustain an entire narrative while they concentrate on peripheral things like clever scene changes and convincing their actors to behave like zombies. This makes for a dreary, self-important film made only worse by its utter lack of necessity. The poster's nice, though.
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Stimulates on many levels
tirkkanen4 January 2009
This is a beautiful film with a plot that keeps you thinking and guessing. It handles very big issues concerning the human soul, existence and the mind.

The movie is filmed very nicely. The cinematography is great, like every single scene has been thoroughly thought through. The movie it self has an easy going nature. You simply enjoy watching it as you at the same time wonder about the big questions rising in your mind.

The actors are wonderful and captivating. Especially Tilda Swinton dominates the screen with bright red hair and piercingly black eyes. Tom McCamus is very good too. When you add a phenomenal soundtrack to the equation you get a ravishing experience all together.

Here is a film that will give food for thought and will also do it gently, at the same time caressing your eyes and ears with beautiful cinema and music.
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lastknown26 June 2006
Science Fiction is hooey, and so too is multi-dimensionality, which is, from what I've heard, the latest theoretical craze in philosophy. These elements may be highlighted in "Possible Worlds"; they can be used to categorize the film. I, contrarily, would rather not fix my viewpoint on "Possible Worlds" while referring to film texts (science fiction), or to texts of philosophy (multi-dimensionality).

I enjoyed Possible Worlds as a whole, and my explanation of what made it enjoyable is inexact. There was a unearthly mood to it, a friction of impossible magnitudes. And then there was the score. Peter Gabriel's contribution mystified "Possible Worlds," a necessity, we may say in hindsight. The film's captured images similarly aided mystification. I didn't at all get the feeling the director was slipping in pictures from a "nature calendar." It seemed "Possible Worlds'" imagery was that of solitary reflection, they were of the detached mind, when memory overrules whatever continuity we're surrounded by. Individuals sat alone, in their minds.

I suppose "Possible Worlds" isn't an everyman's film. And it should not be. It should not find a category whereby it becomes easily approachable.
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An interesting idea....
Blake Grant19 December 2001
but a poor execution. Too bad, the main premise is one with real possibilities, however the acting is very bland, the whole movie dry, and I can easily see most people turning it off before the conclusion (which is the best part!)
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Tilda Swinton's World.
Python Hyena15 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Possible Worlds (2000): Dir: Robert Lepage / Cast: Tom McCamus, Tilda Swinton, Sean McCann, Gabriel Gascon, Steve Adams: Bizarre and intelligent thriller that applies philosophy in its dialogue. In regards reality both in mind and present. It opens with a murder victim discovered whose brains have been removed. Then we are introduced to an individual who lives several parallel lives at once. It regards how we sometimes fantasize about being someone else and Tom McCamus leads several lives that are only his through the minds of others. Tilda Swinton plays a professor who becomes many things to him. Although the ending leaves more questions than answers director Robert Lepage details the film with interesting theories. McCamus is in top form as an individual trying to figure out the bizarre. Swinton is splendid as a woman of many meanings depending upon how McCamus sees her. It is a strange relationship boarding on disappointment and the mere acceptance of specific memories. Sean McCann plays an investigator who arrives on the scene of a murder. Gabriel Gascon plays a doctor who factors into this in a key role. Steve Adams plays an interviewer who will get to get the scoop on this whole premise first hand. Beautifully realized independent film with stunning images and theories. Fascinating film about reality, fantasy and time. Score: 8 / 10
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Use imagination
Lele2 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is fine, well acted, directed and with an interesting script. Interesting does not mean funny: this is why I gave it only a seven. Author should have been a bit more ironical. Not converting the movie in a comedy, of course. Just a little lighter.

During a dream I experienced the same sensation of "knowing everything" the main character refers to. In stimuli deprivation our brain will create fantasy worlds for us. It creates delusional worlds similar to dreams or to psychedelic drugs effects.

My personal opinion is that our "selves" cannot be disconnected by our bodies: we don't live into our minds. When someone looses his self, we say he is reduced to a vegetable. He is no longer alive. In a similar way the mind alone cannot be considered alive: it would create chaotic thoughts and the brain would also create fake sensory responses in a kind of limbo.

That's why the movie is too "still". With the premise of a brain without a body, fantasies should have been much more weird and hard to understand. Anybody can try to experience something like that. Just find a quiet place, no noise, no one can disturb. Make sure you can be at least an hour with your eyes closed and covered by a mask or something. To cover ambient sounds take a radio and tune it where there is no station or search on line for white noise generator. Temperature should be constant and comfortable.

Have fun!
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Beautiful Art for Difficult Questions
gengar84314 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This film is complicated, but this review will approach it simply.

THE FILM. If you love pure cinema that doesn't necessarily need even a story, this is one for the books. Gorgeous scenery, lovingly filmed. The photography was measured to include natural structure of beauty and form, including the shoreline, the rock formations, the beach house, and even the police station. I found myself enamored of the set design, even when the story was quite interesting! THE STORY. Twilight Zone weirdness permeates, and Rod Serling would not be out of place narrating. Dimensional, or alternative universe, jumping is the pretext for deeper probing. First, what has the serial killing to do with it? This should be an easy guess for fantasy film cinephiles. Second, what has the rat brain to do with it? This is, to be fair, an apt metaphor. OK, but what about Wittgenstein? THE PHILOSOPHY. Actress Tilda Swinton seems to enjoy the deep end of the pool, with unending credits of philosophy in her filmography, including Francis Bacon, Vanilla Sky, and.. Wittgenstein. And actor Tom McCamus has a philosopher inserted into his last name. So we know the philosophy herein is deliberate. What is this philosophy? Relative existence.

Do we exist or do we not? Can we prove it? Do possibilities exist or are they "never-been" wisps? Are we someone's or something's lab experiment? Is there God? The answers to such questions are somewhat less obvious than you might think. Yet, if we are only experiments, or dreams, someone or something has created that experiment or dream. Therefore, a creator. Therefore, an existence. As for possibilities, both in reality and in this film, these are out of our control anyway, except for decisions we make at any given time.

Some might find the ending of this film to be "too easy." I find it embracing and satisfying. Blame writers Mighton and LePage if you disagree. I especially liked when George talks about fossils, evidence of the past. Are they evidence, or merely part of the construct? Shells within shells.

MUSIC. I cannot leave you without telling you how beautiful is the soundtrack, especially Peter Gabriel's haunting "The Nest." Well after the film was over, I was transfixed so much of the music that I merely kept staring ahead, awaiting more.

RATING. For utilization of budget, crafting of story, the passionate Tilda Swinton, and all else, I give this 10/10.
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I enjoyed it
Dominic Shields2 May 2004
Throughout the film I was reminded of Krysytof Kieslowski's superb films "The Double Life Of Veronique" and "Three Colours Red" and its bugging me why. In parts the music reminded me of the soundtrack to "The Big Blue". I think the trick this film does well is to start the viewer off speculating about maybes, what-ifs and connections. I don't think its a great film but I like to think that if I was Niels Bohr, I'd probably imagine that the film only existed when I collapsed its wave function, if I was Hugh Everett III I'd think it would be a lot better seen in another universe and if I was Albert Einstein I'd reject the whole premise of the film on the grounds that God does not play dice.

As Kieslowski said when asked what "Red" was all about - "Watch it and decide for yourself".
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Diabolical attempt at high brow ideas
Kellogg Lewis14 August 2012
A group of friends and I bought this film as a joke, namely because it has the title 'possible worlds' a title that hints at being concerned with David Lewis' modal realism. However, we endeavoured to watch it objectively and without philosophical prejudice. The result: one of the most painful 90 minutes of our lives.

A film cannot be termed 'deep' or 'thought provoking' merely in virtue of having excruciatingly long pauses in it, or a main character who stares into space constantly. Whoever wrote this clearly has no knowledge of philosophy beyond the opening lines of Wittgenstein, Descartes, and dare I say Lewis (although I doubt the writer had even heard of Lewis as this is such a car crash of an attempt to deal with possible worlds). This film is not deep, nor does it address big, or weighty, philosophical ideas. It fails to be entertaining, and it is not particularly well filmed. The acting is stilted, and the dialogue, where it exists, is dreadful.

Overall review 1/10. Do not watch this film if you have any background in philosophy, you will be offended. All I can say is I'm glad the late great David Lewis probably never saw this.
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a flick which is not for all tastes!!!!
samsamaellynch20 April 2016
Last month I had met a Time loop Sci-fi fanatic who has been following crazy mindbenders from the 90's and recommended couple of David Lynch and Mike Leigh flicks and this great Spanish film Timecrimes & Possible Worlds to her … Her review about the latter flick went over an hour's time- to sum it up she called it art house hell and incredibly slow and boring.. So wanted to share my thoughts on this great hidden gem of a flick which is not for all tastes.

This is one of those movies that are honest piece of art; a very rare thing. It reflects very well the changing emotions associated with wandering humanity. None of this is said or discussed in the movie, as this is a metaphorical film that uses the visual narrative and some mind-bending cinematography to approach these points.

The Surreal scenes, the poetic cinematography, the fact that the special effects are no such a thing but camera tricks and the result of a pernickety preparation and tampering of the movie sets, adds even more artistic value to this unique Sci-fi Mystery Drama.

Tom McCamus & Tilda Swinton have never been better than they are here, likable/pleasant and utterly believable as they make their way through this labyrinthine but spectacularly challenging maze of a screenplay.

It's amazing how many things I missed in the movie the first time I viewed couple of years back. I watched it again in two days, and Look now, this movie really isn't really an extravaganza Science fiction flick in the sense that most people think of how science fiction to be made or your normal Sci-fi dosage.

The film is superbly directed by Robert Lepage and it is arguably Lepage's best film till date. I don't want to shed more info on the film nor the plot (basic plot) about this film as I don't want to give too much away. I will say though that the final scenes were very powerful (which surprised me).

This film has so many meanings; it would be exhausting to write even half. People, especially the detractors of the film, should give up on saying that there is nothing at the center of the film, and that it is merely pretentious art.

Like I said, it has so many meanings that it would take me forever to write even a few with the limited amount of paragraph space I have.

This one's an example of ingenious film-making that inscribe brains over spectacle with some captivating and strong performances.
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