“You know, lost souls are not that different from those in the zone. The zone is enjoyable, but when that joy becomes an obsession, one becomes disconnected from life.”Moonwind
Pixar’s most experimental film since Wall-E, Soul is also one of its best even though I wish its focus had been slightly different. Pete Doctor has directed Pixar’s most creatively original films: Inside Out, Up and Monsters, Inc. (which for me remains the studio’s pinnacle). As in Up, he uses a masterclass opening sequence designed to communicate a single concept: the transportative power of music. Truly feeling Joe’s consciousness melt away in playing improvisational jazz is astounding. Soul‘s grander ambitions come from the non-musical meaning of its title: exploring the essence of what makes us human and individual. I am unsurprisingly in favour of allowing children to grapple with metaphysical concepts, and they are presented here with wondrous simplicity. It won’t be as outright entertaining as typical family fare, but it will definitely seed ideas and questions. The representation of pre-and-post-life in an abstract way — divorced from any religious angle — becomes somewhat sanitised, and its non-literal depiction more difficult to explain, though children capable of understanding Inside Out‘s conceptual take on emotions should be equally able to grasp Soul. So, whilst the richness of jazz may be merely the vehicle used for Soul‘s true intentions, the result is both unusual and impressive.