The interesting experiment about Immortel is the mix of high-end industrial CGI, mo-cap rendered CGI (the people), lots of green screen work, model work, and various ambient flourishes. Oh, and old school monster effects. It’s all mixed together without breaking the fourth wall, lending everything an I meant to do that feel. Very much a combination of The Fifth Element and Amélie with lots of Egyptian symbolism and no dearth of near-apocalyptic texturing.
So many little things to like about the film.
- The texturing on the doctor’s face who is observing Jill with Dr. Turner in the beginning. You’re never quite sure if he’s CGI or not.
- The outside lighting is over-saturated enough than John’s dark mask and clothes make him appear to be a hole in space more than a man in black.
- Thomas Kretschmann plays Nikopol, and his voice is deliciously ragged and English is just alien enough to him that playing a man dislocated in time comes so very naturally. Also, are all the live-action actors speaking English while all the CGI characters dubbed in English (from French, I would assume)?
- One of Dr. Turner’s patients is wearing a skin-tight shirt that is a amalgamation of several panels from one of Bilal’s graphic novels. Awesome awesome costume.
- The shadow overlay of Horus on Nikopol. Never over-used. Always effective.
- Nikopol: “I’m no carpenter.” Heh.
- The scene where the Dayak takes the black box from the cop’s head. He’s a rubber monster; the cop is CGI; and a cut-away to the cop’s gun is a flesh and blood guy. Which makes you wonder if every shot is composed with a specific mix of compositional elements in mind in order to create a very stylized story.
- Jill, sitting in the tub and and crying blue tears until the tub is full.
It’s a different version of the graphic novel, cherry picking elements and creating new ones altogether. As Bilal wrote and directed the film, it’s not an adaptation so much as a re-envisioning. Always interesting to see an artist re-examine their work. Ha. Bilal even says “loosely based” in the end credits.
Thinking about it more, I realize it isn’t an adaptation. It’s almost a Rashamon-style exploration of some of the events of The Nikopol Trilogy. For one, Immortel is Horus’s story (right down to the ad vitam parenthetical of the title), and Nikopol and Jill are players in that story, ones who never quite find their places (tools of the god, after all). Nikopol’s immortality is explored in the graphic novel and is, in my mind, a more bittersweet and poignant resolution than what is offered in the film.
Which leads to an on-going discussion that we’re having at Subutai about media properties and this new shiny thing called transmedia. Not every story translates well to different mediums. Immortel is a perfectly fine film narrative; The Nikopol Trilogy is well suited to being a graphic novel. Both complement the other, but are not required. But to engage with Enki Bilal on this content is to partake of both and be cognizant of the differences.