Mesmerising act of total surrender

2013-03-04 00:00

IF you’ve always wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil show but are unlikely to get to Las Vegas any time soon, then make sure you get down to Durban to see the film, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, which uses a simple story to blend seven different Cirque shows. The result is mesmerising.

Worlds Away opens with the heroine Mia, (Erica Kathleen Linz), visiting a travelling circus. She’s fascinated by all the performers, but when she sees the aerialist, played by Igor Zaripov, she falls instantly in love.

While watching him soar through the air, her joy turns to horror when his hand slips and he falls to the floor of the big top. Instead of being hurt, however, the aerialist disappears into another dimension.

Mia soon follows and begins to search for him in the magical worlds created from the Cirque du Soleil’s shows O, Ka, Mystère, Viva Elvis, Criss Angel Believe, Zumanity and The Beatles Love.

For writer/director/producer, Andrew Adamson (The Chronicles of Narnia series), tying a love knot around some of the best elements of seven of Cirque du Soleil’s live shows was a journey into magical realism.

“I started thinking about the way Cirque live shows work. There is a very dreamlike quality about them. A thin thread of narrative that weaves in and out of each, but allows these acts to exist within the worlds that are created. I thought this movie could do the same thing. I could find a narrative that threads these completely different shows together,” he said.

Like the live shows, the film has no dialogue, using only music and the expressions of the performers to move the narrative forward. And thanks to 3D, viewers get a chance to get really close to the stunning aerials and acrobatics.

Executive producer James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) says of the film: “The goal was to really celebrate the physical artistry of everything Cirque du Soleil is about, the design, the beauty and grace of those performances.

“Andrew had to walk a fine line working with such diverse elements from these shows. It was never meant to be about effects, but to showcase the raw, pure physical human talent and their amazing ability.”

Adamson drew inspiration for his film from Walt Disney’s Fantasia, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Peter Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet and his own personal experiences of watching a travelling circus show in Mexico in 2000.

“It was a Fred Flintstone-themed travelling circus. I remember the ringleader had a lot of years on him, the lion had no teeth and one of the trapeze artists was a large woman wearing a star-spangled bikini. It was almost an empty house and had definitely seen better days,” he recalls.

“But there was this sort of sad yet beautiful element to it … bittersweet … one of my favourite emotions. That was in the back of my mind. So I set the opening of this film in a circus that was connected to no time or place. I really wanted it to feel like a travelling neighbourhood circus that could be anywhere.”

At first Adamson wanted to use actors in the key roles, but instead took two Cirque du Soleil performers and taught them to play the parts of the lovers.

Linz was 19 when she joined Cirque du Soleil shortly after graduating from high school. “I grew up as a gymnast and a singer, which led to theatre, so I have flip-flopped between acting and acrobatic roles, and recently I’ve been doing an aerial straps duet which fits into this whole theme,” she says, adding that the film role gave her an opportunity within Cirque that she had never known before.

Zaripov, who joined Cirque du Soleil in 2002 and grew up in a Russian circus family, said he had to get into the role “really quick” to do the love scene of the final act.

What Linz and Zaripov do on screen was created specifically for the film —– a romantic aerial straps ballet which captures the ascendancy of love. “What you see is how these two learn to trust each other so completely. Her life is literally in his hands … an act of total surrender,” says Cameron.

• Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away can be seen at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Umhlanga.

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