Civilization and its discontents. Paul, an actor preparing for "Uncle Vanya" on Broadway, is mired in ennui. His agent tells him about an office where he can put his soul in storage. He does so then discovers that being soulless helps neither his acting nor his marriage; he returns to the office and rents, for two weeks, the soul of a Russian poet. His acting improves, but his wife finds him different, he sees bits of the borrowed soul's life, and he's now deep in sorrow. He wants his own soul back, but there are complications: it's in St. Petersburg. With the help of Nina, a Russian who transports souls to the U.S., he determines to get it back. Who has he become? Written by
The script composition include associations and intentions from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Faust", "Dead Souls"by Nikolai Gogol, "The hands of Orlac" by Maurice Renard and Hans Christian Andersen's "The Princess and the Pea". See more »
Dmitri tells the actress not to worry that Paul's soul looks like and is the size of a chickpea, telling her that Al Pacino won three Oscars. Al Pacino has actually only won one Oscar (Best Actor in 1992, Scent of a Woman). See more »
Now, your soul will be be stored here, or, if you'd rather avoid sales tax, it can be shipped to our New Jersey warehouse.
Giamatti - Paul:
Un, no. God, no. I don't want my soul shipped to New Jersey. No.
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As so far no-one has actually located the site of the soul in the human body (although the French philosopher Descartes thought it might be the pineal gland), this story is technically science fiction, but with satiric intent - "metaphysical comedy" is nearer the mark. Remember in Charlie Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" where Lacuna Corp offered to remove memories you'd rather forget, such as a failed relationship? Well, here Dr Flintstein (David Strathairn, hilarious) of Soul Storage ("conveniently located at Roosevelt Island") offers to store your soul temporarily while you get over your current existential crisis.
Paul Giamatti, playing a version of himself like John Malkovic in "Being", is having trouble with his stage portrayal of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" and signs up after reading an article about soul storage in the "New Yorker" at the behest of his agent. He soon discovers that his soul might be the size of a chick pea but is necessary all the same. He is the victim of a soul-smuggling racket, and, temporarily equipped with the soul of a Russian poet, he hastens to St Petersburg, Russia, with Nina (Dina Korzun), one of the operatives (a "soul mule"), to get back his soul, which has been placed into the person of Sveta (a gorgeous Katheryn Winnick), a beautiful but vacuous soap opera star, the wife of the chief racketeer (Sergey Kolesnikov), who is under the impression it belongs to Al Pacino.
This synopsis suggests a certain amount of inspiration from Kaufman, Spike Jonze and Woody Allen, who has spent a large part of his career trying to find his and other peoples' souls, but Sophie Barthes, who debuts as a director of features here manages to put her own spin on the story, which is also very beautifully shot by Andrij Parekh. The dream sequences in particular are very carefully made and give an extra dimension to the film. Giamatti ("John Adams", "Sideways") is a fine character actor and has no trouble producing the angst required and Dina Korzun is just right as the mule who helps him out. Emily Watson is also sympathetic as Paul's baffled wife. And who should pop up as the exasperated director of the "Uncle Vanya" production but Michael Tucker "Stewart" of LA Law. The Russians are real and so is the St Petersburg seen in the film.
I enjoyed the film. Consumerism, especially as practiced by the urban middle classes in the US is an easy target, but Sophie Barthes is light on her feet and at the same time gives the satire some depth. Russian and American souls are pretty similar, it seems, it's just that Americans, having more money, have more distractions.
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