Seven years ago, Argentine director Juan Solanas had a vision of two mountains, one of which was upside-down, with a man and woman gazing at one another from each peak. This image evolved into Solanas’ new, romantic sci-fi adventure “Upside Down.”
The film’s leading man, Jim Sturgess (“Across the Universe”), has fond memories of its conception.
“Juan [Solanas] was really excited by the idea,” Sturgess said. “He told me it was all based on a dream.”
Solanas’ vision inspired the setting of the film, which included a pair of planets directly above each other, both with their own opposite gravity. The look of the planets, simply named “Up Above” and “Down Below,” recalls the scene in “Inception” when the world folds on top of itself — though “Upside Down” began production before the release of Christopher Nolan’s film.
“Upside Down” follows Adam (Sturgess), a man from “Down Below” who falls in love with Eden (Kirsten Dunst), a woman from “Up Above.” To be with her, Adam must battle the opposing gravities as well as the planetary governments that enforce a strict separation of their populations.
“I couldn’t work out what kind of film it was,” Sturgess said. “People say it’s sci-fi, and I guess it is, but to me it’s like a fairy tale. And most fairytales have something to say about the world you live in, some social and political commentary.”
Solanas agreed that there is more to the film than rich visuals.
“I left Argentina because we were going to be killed. People I know died under torture, so for me everything is political,” Solanas said.
When he envisioned double gravity, Solanas saw an opportunity to address the divisions that drive people apart and the powers that unite them.
“This movie is about being together,” he explained. “We put people against other people for stupid reasons. Religion, oil, whatever … We need to be together.”
In order to send this message, Solanas had to create the illusion of two separate worlds — a task that proved to be anything but simple. Sturgess faced difficult scenes where he had to communicate with characters on the opposite planet.
“There was always an eye-line issue, so we’d spend hours trying to figure out where I should be looking,” Sturgess recalled.
The cast and crew of “Upside Down” faced many technological and physical challenges, but Sturgess worked undaunted.
“The most important thing for an actor is to be adaptable and to change with the environment and the people you’re working with,” he said.
Adaptability plays a significant role in Solanas’ goals. With the film’s metaphorical message, the director hopes the audience will consider the barriers we’ve created people put up and how they try to over come them.
“We live in a complicated world and the beauty of making movies is to speak out,” Solanas said. “We have things to change.”
A version of this article was published in the Tuesday, March 12 print edition. Suzanne Egan is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]