"21 Grams" | Heaviness of a soul?
A human body loses 21 grams of weight at the moment of death’ - the inference was drawn from a research work headed by renowned physician, Dr. Duncan MacDougall on 6 dying patients in 1907. The experiment, entering into the cultural consciousness of the filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in 2003, thrived as a brilliant metaphor in the cinematic medium. The film 21 Grams, therefore, throws back the echoes of some intriguing queries - is it the weight of the soul or is it a measure of one’s despair, love and existence?
Interlacing the lives of three people united by death as contemplation on the significance of human lives, Guillermo Arriaga Jordan elegantly pens down the script of this psychological drama, teaming up with Inarritu. Inarritu, whose debut feature Amores Perros (Love’s a Bitch) won the Oscar nomination, shuffles his plot design seamlessly in 21 Grams, his second film of ‘Trilogy of Death’ that ends with Babel. The clusters of brief scenes, drifting forward and backward in a rapid pace, act as a mosaic that goes on filling in the gaps till the end of the film. One must not forget here Gustavo Santaolalla’s unparallel contribution of sound design in the trilogy of films.
Ex-con Jack, after his release from the prison, yields so fiercely to God that even his wife and children sometimes feel uneasy. Soon, driving his truck, Jack cuts a corner too fast and runs over a father and his two children. Terminally ill mathematician Paul‘s life is restored by implanting the dying man’s heart replacing his own. Devastated with the news of the tragedy, the dead man’s wife Christina Peck who once overcame substance abuse resorts to drugs again. In a twist of fate, Paul somehow traces Peck’s address out and meets Christina, with her husband’s heart in his body. Rueing criminal, Jack on the other hand desperately looks for ways of atonement for his sin. Finally, the trio comes face to face at a place with pent-up emotions and their pounding hearts.
21 Grams’ mournful characters are the strength of the film. Naomi Watts mesmerizingly reaches the apogee of misery cloaking herself with the shrouds of emotional torments. Benecio del Toro’s class acting as eccentric Jack Jordan trying desperately to reason out every action in his own way is a treat to watch. Sean Penn among the star cast seems a bit mismatch in a role of a professor but acts equally intensely as the character demands.
Mexican film director does make the organ donor’s identity records look like an open book in a country like America in his film and his continuous flashbacks and flashforwards may have irked the audience who only wishes to ‘follow’ the story. However, his astonishing filmic expression marks the beginning of a new genre of filmmaking.