Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 119: Avalon (2001) - Rank 4/5


When I first began watching this film, I couldn't help but note the similarities between it and "The Matrix." Both feature stylized violence in worlds of alternate reality, and both feature the same element of danger to them: if you die in the computer-generated world, you die in real life. But to consider "Avalon" an attempt to cash in on the success of "The Matrix" would be a disservice (though I do suspect that it was what the film's producers had in mind). "Avalon" takes the concept of existing in a simulated world instead of living in the real world to a higher, more artistic and ambiguous level, which left me wondering if the story was meant to be a subtle social commentary on gamers or something more.

The protagonist of the film is a curvaceous gamer named Ash (the type of female that rises to the heights of Lara Croft in the way of intended gameboy appeal) who happens to be one of the most expert players in a military RPG that involves a virtual reality hookup not dissimilar from that seen in "The Matrix." She makes a living by cashing in her game kills (I suppose I should say "frags" to sound "g33kishly correct") and rising in rank, but when she meets her better, she embarks on a quest to move to a level within the game few players have ever seen. This is the main difference between "The Matrix" and "Avalon" to me - the former is focused on freeing individuals so they can live in "the real world" whereas the latter's focus is delving deeper into the virtual world and further away from reality...and eerily enough to levels closer to actual reality that the real world itself as advancement in the game progresses.

In case you can't already tell, the film forces you to over analyze where reality ends and fantasy begins, not unlike a Cronenberg or Lynch film ("Videodrome" and "Lost Highway" being two prime examples). This erudite form of direction pushes "Avalon" to a status above movies of a like ilk, because it doesn't pander to mainstream audiences with a straightforward message. The theme that individuals who engage in role-playing games often find a greater sense of reality within their play than in their real life is certainly present, both in plot as well as visual style. All scenes shot in "reality" are softly lit in sepia tone, surely in an attempt to characterize real life as being "drab" and "unfocused." It's only though expert game play that color and clarity can truly shine through (simply put, the film looks gorgeous). The film's pacing suffers through the scenes set in the real world. Whether it was meant to show how slow and boring life can be when the console is turned off or it was unintentional, I can't say. But if it is the former, I can respect the directorial choice. Either way, I don't suppose it matters. I give the film just a couple more years before it is remade for American audiences and all the symbolism made blatantly obvious or thrown out altogether.

Watch the Trailer

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