This is pretty cool: so there is an article in The New Yorker which explains a new procedure known as soul removal. For a fee, people come in, painlessly have their soul extracted and, if the results are positive, they live life with no worries or troubles.
Paul Giamatti plays an actor named… Paul Giamatti (bear with me), who hesitantly decides to get the procedure done by zany Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn, miles away from his Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck). Once it’s done, Giamatti feels better, sure, but he’s lost that fire that gives his stage acting so much allure.
Soon he tries the even newer procedure of soul replacement, where one temporarily takes the soul of another. I’m making this sound like a hyper sci-fi film where people inhabit other people’s bodies. It isn’t like that. Once you have someone’s soul, you inhabit only small details of what the original person had. There are no exorcisms involved, only a few confusing dreams.
The conflict comes when we discover that Russians traffic the souls using “soul moles” to transport the souls between the countries. The Russians can sell them for big, so they make a scary profit.
French director Sophie Barthes most have Charlie Kaufman embedded in her subconscious as this film is a reflection of both Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. While the film is beautifully shot, it is clearly the work of a new filmmaker, one who’s a little rusty with her editing cuts. Rusty, maybe, but a director to look out for, definitely.
During the Q & A, Barthes described where the inspiration of the story came very with a highly amusing anecdote. She had a dream a few years ago where she was standing in a very posh, futuristic doctor’s office (as depicted in the film) and Woody Allen was standing in front of her, holding his soul in a glass jar. Allen explained the procedure to her and told her how he was upset that his soul looked like a chickpea (as Giamatti’s does). When Barthes woke up, she wrote the dream down and went to work right away. Assuming she’d never get Allen as the main character, she wrote the script with Giamatti in mind, sent him a copy, and made the film. She hasn’t told Woody Allen the genesis of her film, but if he hears it, I imagine he’ll be amused. B