What if you could remove your soul for a day? How would it feel? No regrets, no remorse, no inhibitions about anything. Would you embrace it? Or, would the experience just leave you cold inside?
Cold Souls is small science fiction at its best, challenging audiences by presenting them with an impossible opportunity – the chance to remove your soul. The film is written and directed by first-time filmmaker Sophie Barthes who earns her stripes by crafting a thoughtful, albeit, slow paced drama about the very nature of what makes us human.
Playing himself is Paul Giamatti, a fantastic character actor with a career hallmarked by interesting work. Souls gives us a more rundown and depressed version of Giamatti as he struggles to capture Anton Chekhov’s character Uncle Vanya for a production he will be starring in of the same name. On the recommendation of a friend, he reads a piece in the New Yorker about a company that will store souls. He goes to the clinic on Roosevelt Island and, after a long conversation with Dr. Flintstein (a wonderful David Strathairn), decides to give it a try. Initially, Giamatti sees his situation worsen and decides to try trading souls with an anonymous donor. The switch leaves him feeling unsatisfied as well. When he returns to the clinic to finally retrieve his own soul he finds it missing. Eventually he learns that it’s been sent to Russia and, with the help of a human “mule” named Nina (Dina Korzun), he travels there to get it back.
Much like the memory erasing in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind there is little mention about the science behind the removal of one’s soul. A great gag throughout the film is that the appearance of a person’s soul can never be determined until it’s out of them. Giamatti’s soul (much to his chagrin) winds up resembling your everyday chickpea.
Souls is a slow film, classically European and classically Russian in its pacing and reveal. More than once the film seems to drag on with lots of shots of Giamatti just sitting around. For those that don’t mind such a style you’ll find many of the shots beautiful, those that do would be better off seeing something else. Still, if you give the movie the time it needs to unfurl its message (and believe me there is a message) you’ll find it a clever, funny and refreshing watch. Not to mention, it has one of the coolest looking brain scan machines ever.
DVD Special Features:
Soul Extractor 5000, Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Emily Watson, David Straithairn, Dina Korzun, Katheryn Winnick
Director: Sophie Barthes
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films