Actor Jim Sturgess summarizes “Upside Down” with a concise two part statement: “It’s a classic love story set up, like Romeo & Juliet. But rather than it being family or gangs that pulls them apart, it’s gravity.”
It’s hard to find a better summary than that for Writer-Director Juan Solanas’ new film, surely one of 2013’s more ambitious movies. The film tells the story of Adam (Sturgess) and Eden (“Spiderman’s” Kirsten Dunst), young lovers who are separated by the opposing gravities of their dual gravity planet, Eden being from the modern “up” world while Adam resides in the impoverished “down” world. As they try everything they can to be together, they come to realize the true power that their love possesses. While the film shares many similarities with the classic love stories, its scientific setting is what distinguishes it from your average hollywood romance.
“It was really hard to imagine it at first.” Sturgess recalls. “It’s not a futuristic world, it’s more of an alternative reality, but the story felt like a fairy tale I should’ve read as a child.” That blend of love and science fiction is something Solanas was careful to incorporate into his film, which came to him in a vision seven years ago.
“I had this vision, and I started thinking about double gravity, I don’t know where it came from,” Solanas says passionately,“but once I understood the story, and because of what I am, an Argentinian from the third world living in Europe, which are two worlds upside down, I knew I could project what I know into this story.”
Solanas, admittedly a visual storyteller, does just that in Upside Down, which has stunning effects that all at once highlight the stories’ fantasy and make the character’s journey realistic.
“It’s my way,” Solanas declares triumphantly. “I’m a real visual guy, when I think about something, I visualize it into reality. It’s why I don’t drive, because it happened once when I was driving and I almost killed myself (laughs).”
Sturgess was drawn to the intriguing blend of genre, but found in shooting the film that despite the fantastical aspect, there wasn’t an over reliance on effects.
“I expected it to be this studio shoot with lots of green scenes,” he says. “I was amazed to realize that they built these huge sets, and it ended up being a lot of on-location shooting.”
Methods like these are just a few of the ways that Solanas approaches his vision, which also included utilizing a smaller amount of shots than the average film, which he has a good reason for doing. “Most movies have about 3,000 cuts, mine has about 900. If it’s a good shot, leave it.”
While the visuals in Upside Down are mesmerizing, the chemistry between Sturgess and Dunst is what ultimately drives the film. Sturgess knows exactly why this is the case, saying “the chemistry we had is a real testament to Juan, and his ability to make the characters so real.”
Solanas too places the utmost emphasis on his two actors being the anchors for the film. “The characters are apart of myself. It’s easy then to recognize yourself in the actors” he explains. “When I met Kirsten and Jim, I knew no doubt that they were Eden and Adam. They felt the movie the way I felt it.”
With all it’s visuals and it’s classic love story, Upside Down is more than anything a fun movie to behold, and it’s clear that Sturgess and Solanas not only had fun making the film, but that they successfully realized the idea that came to Solanas seven years prior. “The day we shot the mountain scene, Juan came to me and told me, ‘this is the vision I had,'” Sturgess proudly recalls. “That was a huge moment, to see all these people working together, and making his vision truly a reality.”
Foghorn Grade: B