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Violent. Sexual. Graphic.

Rajesh Karkera

The Cell is a visual extravaganza.

Watching films has always been a pleasurable experience. I have always thought if I ever saw a film with the intention of reviewing it, the satisfaction would somehow diminish.

My notions, however, were dispelled when it came to The Cell. I saw the DVD -- and the film took me on an astonishing audio-visual journey.

Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), a serial killer, takes sadistic pleasure in drowning his female victims in glass cells. He also videotapes the entire gory event. He then disfigures the bodies and then tosses them off highways into ditches or streams.

His other hobby: suspending himself from chains attached to hooks inserted into his back. A character right out of Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) is hot on our rather careless killer's trail. He has just kidnapped another girl; she has 40 hours before her cell fills with water.

Carl is soon apprehended only because he enters into a schizophrenic neurological seizure and falls into a coma.

Now, the real problem arises. The FBIs need to trace the whereabouts of the still-living victim.

This is where child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) steps in. She is involved in an experimental project that allows her to travel into the minds of coma victims to share their dreams.

For all those who trash Lopez's acting abilities, this film has her doing more than an adequate job.

Here, the exciting journey of visuals and sound takes over. They blend together so unusually that you feel you're dreaming, too. Not pleasant dreams, though -- Carl's mind is twisted, violent, sexual and very graphic.

The overall effect -- stunning yet disturbing, like the wreck of an accident that you drive past, and couldn't help but look.

Director Tarsem Singh's emphasis on special effects is close to perfect: As the scale of terror mounts, the exciting colours and visuals work themselves into a frenzy. Pretty indescribable, more's the pity.

The photography is captivating -- there's no need for dialogue here. In fact 20 minutes of film are devoted to the brilliant visuals with no dialogue whatsoever. Coupled with the horrifically spooky soundtrack, The Cell has a life of its own.

For those who bashed the film's lack of realism, it is a film, for crying out loud! They don't necessarily have to operate along our everyday lives. Isn't escapism the whole point of a film?

The Cell sure is fantasy unlimited. Or that was my opinion until I had the opportunity to catch it on the big screen after its commercial release in Bombay.

I walked into the theatre upbeat about treating myself to the visual extravaganza on the wide screen. What a letdown -- the visual bits where the dialogues were eliminated had apparently been censored. And in such a manner that I felt robbed of the whole experience.

I have seen the film twice. Both the times, I was presented with different versions -- one, a true work of art; the other, shreds of a masterpiece. That's my dilemma!

Design: Rajesh Karkera

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