January 15, 2006
Directed by: Gabriele Salvatores
Written by: Pino Cacucci, Gloria Corica, Gabriele Salvatores
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High
Key Cast Members:
They US Region 1 English Dubbing version only merits 6 stars
Overview: Previously, my review of Nirvana, which was based on the Region 1 English dubbing only copy started as follows:
All in all a decent cyberpunk flick from Italy, but unfortunately suffers horribly from bad dubbing. The dubbing here is as bad as your average anime dubbing, and unfortunately here in the US, this is all we get. I wish I could get a copy of this in Italian with subtitles - if I did, I’m sure this would shoot up significantly on my cyberpunk list, but alas…
Now that I’ve purchased the Italian copy (which set me back about $30 bucks!), I still agree with my comments above - the dubbing ruined it. Truly. In Italian, the movie has the necessary spark of energy and emotion missing from the dubbed version. The story itself always held up at least decently well. What was missing is any connection to the actors. The Italian version fixes this. The picture below really captures the colorization of this film -we get lots of drab, dirty settings with shocking neon colors intermixed.
The Story: Nirvana is NOT Tron meets Blade Runner Meets Matrix as the cheesy tagline on US version of the DVD suggests. However, Nirvana is a pretty good low-budget cyberpunk flick with a strange virtual reality (VR) angle. Jimi (Lambert) is a computer programmer who is working on a VR simulation game with very realistic seeming characters. Somehow a strange virus infects his game and turns one of his VR characters into a self-aware program. The VR character has to “relive” the game sequence almost in a groundhog day type fashion, only each time he has to figure out how to avoid getting killed so he can progress further into the plot. The game is 3 days away from being distributed everywhere and the program doesn’t want to be duplicated everywhere, and worse, feels trapped in a nightmare. Lambert feels bad for the VR character and starts working to get the program deleted from corporate.
Unfortunately, this involves hacking into the corporation’s corporate system. To do this, Jimi has to go to the seedy part of town outside the barriers to find the expertise he needs. Jimi is also distraught by recently losing the love of his life, Lisa, who left him for still undetermined reasons. Jimi stumbles upon Joystick, a former cowboy (hacker), who has lost his eyesight and now has to rely on failing eye implants to see. Jimi tells Joystick that the corporate system is also home to millions in illegal funds, that can be stolen with the right hack. Joystick and Jimi work out a plan to break into the corporate system. Along the way, they meet up with Naima, a computer expert, who also has a way of bringing Jimi back to Lisa. Unfortunately, the corporate agents are on Jimi’s trail, and want the final verison of the game.
The Atmosphere: The atmosphere is similar to Blade Runner in the sense that its a seedy futuristic setting. More interesting is the Neuromancer-style cowboy hacking that Nirvana embraces. The idea that we can allow our consciousness to “ride the net” in order to break in to data systems is one that currently doesn’t jive with modern computing, but it is very motivating. There are also a number of cool cyberpunk elements in Nirvana, including eye implants, hard drives embedded in people’s brains, etc. I’ve gone ahead and made a few screencaps of this to give you a better idea of the visuals:
The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a really good low-budget cyberpunk movie, Nirvana is your flick - AS LONG AS you get the italian version. I’m not sure it’s worth $30 bucks, but it’s LOTS better than the dubbed version. Truly, I don’t get US DVD distributors sometimes, but hopefully this trend towards dubbing is slowly changing. Even if you are stuck with the dubbing, which pretty much ruins the story, at least the visuals are more than decent. On top of this, I truly love Lambert, so I was able to put up with it.
PS - thanks again to the comments below that enabled me to find a copy of this in Italian