Synopsis: After reading an article on Soul Storage in the New Yorker, Paul Giamatti decides to give up his soul to relieve himself of the pain and weight he feels, which has been affecting his acting. Turns out his soul is a chick pea, and he quickly places it in a chilled locker. From there, he finds his scale tipped from one extreme to another, borrowing an anonymous Russian Poet’s soul and finding his own soul trafficked across the Atlantic to Moscow, where it becomes harbored by a ridiculous young soap opera diva.
What makes this film so remarkable is the black comedy as well as the intriguing dramatic depth that blends together for an entertaining and yet intimate experience. It questions the tangibility of the soul and its reverbrating dynamic on the human experience. Paul loses his depth as an actor when he loses his ability to relate to his character. He realizes his pain is what makes him an individual. This is made blatantly evident when the soap opera star enjoys his melancholic soul with a lightness he regrets he didn’t appreciate.
This begs the question: Is there ever really a life experience we shouldn’t be grateful for? When you take away the painful memories and the saddest moments of life, you lose a lot of the fiber that makes us who we are. And we all know what happens when you don’t have fiber in the diet.
Another provoking thought of the film followed the scene when Paul finally gets his soul back, but has to reconnect with it first before it will enter him again. The Russian soap opera star hardened his soul, and it wasn’t malleable as before, so he has to look within himself before he can reconnect. This is the exact thing he has avoided from the start. The trafficker who has helped him tells him that she found his soul quite beautiful. The scene is beautiful, but we must obviously draw the conclusion that it is painful to Paul to have an inner eye. Sometimes the answers we need can only be found by looking inward. Do you believe that? That’s definitely a transcendental thought and it smacks of Emerson and Kant. Is it true? I’ve questioned this heavily this last year, and my search has been mostly external. Maybe all the real answers can only be found inside of us.
What was great was after the film, Anthony and I asked a couple questions to the hot french director, the talented Sophie Barthes. I asked where the idea for the script came from and how it evolved to the end product. She was so fun to listen to with her quaint french accent, but her answers were even more rewarding. She told us the script came from a dream she had, and that most of her inspiration comes from her dreams. The main elements of the movie, i.e. that Paul (originally she dreamt Woody Allen) stores is soul and it is stolen, souls are trafficked from America to Russia, the soul is a chick pea, etc. were all eventually incorporated into the final product.
Of all the films at Sundance, this was definitely one of the most impressive and had the most lasting impression.