To fully understand the use of the filmic elements of Director Juan Diego Solanas’ 2012‘Upside Down’, one must understand the synopsis. ‘Upside Down’ is about a man who met a woman when he was young and in love. He made an oath that he would see her no matter what the cost. Unfortunately, he lived in the poorest part of one of the two worlds that separate them. The girl lived on the wealthy planet. His objective was to find the girl after an abrupt separation due to illegal contact with each other years ago.
The film has many elements that unfold a blend of archetypes, stylistic aesthetics and filmic elements that Solanas had used to create the story told in his unique universe.
‘Upside Down’ takes on a number of techniques and narrative structures.
A structure that is most prominent is the Romeo-and-Juliet story. The Romeo-and-Juliet story is when the boy meets a girl and is set on finding that girl. This can be interchanged with the Aladdin-story as well.
Another film element is the braking of the 4th wall by having the main protagonist (Adam) explain the physics of his world and his love for Eden, the woman he longs for. The 4th wall is an imaginary wall that separates the actors on screen from the audience. Breaking the 4th wall can sometimes aid a film by the way it is used. In this case, having Adam explain the perpetuation of the man-vs-nature narrative due to the laws of physics in his world is essential to understanding how opposing things react with objects from opposing planets.
Man-vs-nature is when the hero of the film is up against the forces of nature, for instance: the laws of physics within this fantastic universe prohibits Adam and anything from staying on opposing planets without immediately falling toward its planet of origin or disintegrating in its own heat. Juan also uses a combination of the man-vs-system and man-vs-foreign land narrative. Man-vs-system and is when the hero of the film is up against the social and cultural structures that regulate the boundaries he is trying to overcome.
Man-vs-foreign land is when the hero is challenged with adapting to a land he/she has never been. With that said, the only way for Adam to see Eden again is to apply for a job at a highly secured company called Trans World. Here, Adam was introduced to a rigid and regulated structure, at the same time, Adam is experiencing a place he has never been.
Man-vs-self plays a part in Adam applying for the company. Man-vs-self is when the hero has to overcome internal obstacles such as fear and emotional weakness. When Adam was younger, he had one person who cared for him and the company took her away due to the rippling consequences of the incident involving Eden years ago. He had a hard time making the decision to work for them after consulting with friends.
After entering in a high secure building, the classic man-vs-man narrative appears often once people from the system find and hurt him. Man-vs-man is when the hero of the film is faced with a human obstacle equating or overpowering himself. Later, Adam is then roughed up by thugs, sent by his former boss (who represented “the system”), forcing him to reveal the secret formula to a revolutionary reverse aging cream Adam had in development. Here, a man-vs-villain narrative plugs in with the man-vs-man narrative because of a number of men the hero is up against by the villain.
One other narrative structure is the impossible-quest story. The collection of obstacles and narratives that withers the hero’s success to execute his objective create the impossible-quest story. These high stakes create tension throughout the film. When all seems hopeless, Juan Diego Solanas finds a way to further illustrate hopelessness using symbols or aesthetic storytelling.
Aesthetic storytelling is simply telling a story using symbols, colors, action, and editing. A side from Adam breaking the 4th wall to establish a “story-map-legend”, the illustration used to support his explanation uses watercolor and a 1940’s modernist/postmodernist art style.
Modernism is the mindset that science is fully accepted as true and is reflected in the arts including the in social structures people live by. Vice versa is true about postmodernism. Since most films today gravitate toward postmodernist editing, most of the cuts are postmodern while using series of cuts to compile a story but in the scene where Adam gets past security and makes it to a storage room on his side of the two worlds, the camera is placed in one location. It is watching as the audience absorbs what Adam is doing with inverse material.
Vice versa is true about postmodernism. Aside from the postmodernist aesthetics, the people down-below, match the status of a near post-apocalyptic scenery.
The wardrobe is very much associated with symbolism. Symbolism is the use of symbols to convey an idea or message. The clothing accentuates the plot. Each location has a wardrobe that accompanies it. Down below is ragged, mal-kept and poor looking because the location itself is mal-kept and poor looking. Vice versa is true for the world up-top. The names Adam and Eden represent the classical biblical character and location. According to the Bible, Adam lived in the Garden of Eden. The biblical Adam was happy in the garden. Adam of down-below is unhappy because Eden from up-top is not in his grasp. The nicknames of the planets are symbolic.
Most religions that believe in a heaven and hell believe that hell is directly below them and heaven is above them putting Adam in a place symbolic for hell and putting Eden in a place symbolic for heaven is symbolic in itself. ‘Upside Down’ is a fantasy and with most fantasies, the events that transpire are unlikely to happen.
People indulge in the activity of imagining things, including things that are not likely to happen because the fantasy acts as a window to escape to another world.
Thees are my words, enjoy the citation below.
Aime, Wally. “Upside Down 2012 ‧ Drama/Fantasy (Archetype Analysis).” Mifilmgroup.com, 3 Sept. 2019, https://www.mifilmgroup.com/post/upside-down-2012-drama-fantasy-analysis.