A Beatles Inspired Universe Speaks To Us Today
By Sarah Campbell
The film, “Across The Universe” is truly invigorating and provides a feel of the 1960s. Advanced visual techniques, accompanied by heartwarming performances translate the 60s era into our heads, while the Beatles soundtrack explodes in our ears.
The plot involves a young crowd main in New York City: Jude (Jim Sturgess), a poor British ship welder, Max (Joe Anderson) a well-off college drop-out, and Lucy (Rachel Evan Wood) Max’s little sister who ends up following her brother’s footsteps and soon falls in love with Jude, her brother’s best friend.
The bohemian crowd lives together in a Greenwich Village crash pad with several other musicians. Most of the characters are named for Beatles songs or resemble other famous singers of the time, such as the character’s Sadie (Dana Fuchs) and Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy)who easily resemble Janice Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix.
The plot is deep and broad touching on Vietnam (Max is shipped to war) and revolution, in addition to a love between Jude and Lucy, though there is very little dialogue. Almost everything is conveyed through images set to an almost continuous Beatles soundtrack.
One scene in particular, in which the Hendrix type, Jo-Jo walks the streets is marvelous. Jo-Jo passes a group of businessmen performing a rigid combination of movements, in a box-like formation. The men move in unison and look like carbon copies of one another. They’re carrying square briefcases and wearing plain suits. They stomp side to side while moving up and down in a zombie like trance, which translates a feel of confinement.
Jo-Jo on the other hand passes by in his colorful bohemian clothing, guitar strapped to his shoulder, looking relaxed, worn, but happy. Its morning and all of the businessmen are off to work and running through their routine. Jo-Jo’s just heading home. It’s a terrific reflection of the contrast within society. The use of color helps illustrate the mood throughout the film, as it’s more neutral in Middle America and the U.K. and gains brightness and versatility when the setting becomes New York City.
The inevitable fear that strikes us upon imagining new artists singing Beatles songs is immediately crushed, as is the anticipated unease of envisioning a new story to accompany their music. Many of the songs have a different take completely. For instance, Prudence sings, “I want to hold your hand” from a sad place. She expresses wanting to hold a woman’s hand whom she lusts after, but doesn’t feel comfortable admitting this truth about her sexuality. Her suppression and upset come through in her “I want to hold your hand.”
Bleeding strawberries, rooftop concerts and magical tour buses add to the films 60s feel. But this is not why the film stays with you. It strikes a cord of similarity; generates a sense of sameness between the world now and then. By the movies end there isn’t an emotion that hasn’t been stirred. It’s invigorating, inspirational, beautiful, creative, evoking. It serves as a reminder of the past and provides a new lens for the present.