Saturday, March 02, 2013

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

We went to see the movie Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away recently, in 3D.  I haven't had much experienceof the new style 3D, so far, apart from seeing Alice in Wonderland in the format more than a year ago.  That particular movie didn't grab me enough to make me want to feel that I needed to see things in 3D for the sake of it, but we couldn't see Cirque du Soleil conveniently in 2D, so we opted for the only other choice. 

It turned out to be the right decision.  I suspect that some films are made in 3D for the sake of it, and some are planned that way.  Worlds Away gives the impression of being planned for the 3D format, and is all the better for it.  There's a depth to the visuals that allows things to be going on in a number of places at once and still be visible (although this being typically Cirque du Soleil, there are always random happenings going on that you only just catch).  Two or three times a person is caught right at the front of the shot, almost in silhouette, and that didn't seem to work (you wondered if an audience member had just stood up) but otherwise everything has a marvellous clarity. 

The film is a compilation, basically, that tries to be a unity by having a very basic story running through.  However the story is so thin, that it hardly holds the thing together.  A small town girl goes to a circus, sees (only for a moment) a man working at putting up the tent, falls in love with him (apparently), discovers that he's the Airealist in the circus, and distracts him while he's performing. He plunges to the floor, except the floor proves to be sand and gives way beneath him and he vanishes.  She jumps in after him and finds herself.  Well, who knows where she finds herself - perhaps inside the Cirque du SoleilOnly there are seven separate circuses in this movie (all of them running in Las Vegas at the time the movie was made), and some of their best acts are shown (there are also some rather brief random acts, which don't seem to fit with anything).  The Airealist is captured by some bodies (who knows who) and the girl keeps on searching, until finally they're reunited.  (Who knows how?)

So irrelevant is all this to what you see on the screen that it barely matters.  What matters is the Circus, and the artists, and the design, and the fantastic stage props and machinery, and the costumes, and the utter artistry of these performers.  Yes, I know Cirque du Soleil has become the household name for all that's top class in circuses, so you expect the best, but even so, they are always full of surprises.  The acts performed in and around the huge pool are wonderful; the marvellous superheroes piece on an assortment of trampolines set up like a huge skateboard park are high energy to the max; the 'fight' on the tilted floor between two groups of acrobats on wires is superbly timed, and perhaps only outdone by the other battle on the same floor (this time vertical) in which the acrobats race up and around and down and through a series of poles sticking out of the floor, with nothing to hold them onto to what amounts to a wall; several of them 'die' with horrendous screams by falling off it- who knows what happens to them, any more than the artists who drop into the water from trapezes and other hanging devices early in the piece. 

There's also the exhausting 'boat' that's slung way up in the air and has at least a dozen trapeze artists and strongmen on it: it's constantly on the move, like a giant swing, and the airealists are flung about from either end like rag dolls that suddenly turn out to have muscles and strength once they're back on board again. 

I love circuses - poor little circuses with barely any money to rub together (Circus Aotearoa, for instance) or the noisy Zirka Circus - but I love Cirque du Soleil most of all, even though I've only seen it once live - and that was in very confined quarters as far as the circus was concerned, on the stage of the Regent Theatre.  I've seen a number of presentations of Cirque du Soleil on TV, including documentaries and such.  I just marvel at the attention to detail, the atmosphere, the innovativeness and much more. 

This movie may not do much more than capture some of the best acts on film, but it does it exceptionally well, and that's all I need to say.

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