Joe Gardner is a middle-aged New Yorker who teaches music in a high school but aspires to become a jazz pianist. Even though his mother insists that he must have a job with insurance, Joe’s heart lies in becoming a jazz musician. He receives an invitation from an old student of his, a jazz drummer, to apply for a jazz gig on the same day that the school he works at offers him a full-time job. Once in a lifetime events do not really happen twice in a day, do they? The same applies to what happens to Joe. He falls into a septic pit just as he excitedly calls a friend to tell them about the gig he just scored. Joe’s enlightenment happens as he falls through this space, which seems to be an allegory of emptiness we occasionally fall through in life, as the viewers almost question whether he really fell into that pit.
One of the writers of the movie also wrote the 2015 film “Inside Out” which is another Pixar production. I believe this team is exceptionally talented at analyzing emotional situations and insight. The scenario of Soul is just as good as that of “Inside Out” which cleverly revolves around the idea of archetyping emotions that control our body from the prefrontal cortex. Joe’s story after he falls into the pit is another “inspiration” story. Two paths lie ahead of him in the space he falls through: One path, the path he is expected to follow, will take him to the “Great Beyond” (afterlife). But Joe escapes this path because he has a gig to play that very evening and finds himself at the “Great Before” (before life) where every individual is matched with their personality before they are born. Souls that are not born yet get ready to their lives on Earth here. The soul that finds their “spark”, their purpose in life, is ready to be sent off. Joe will be guiding a young soul which has yet to find their spark as he tries to go back to Earth.
Half of the pieces in the soundtrack (the jazz pieces that we hear on Earth) belongs to the American musician Jon Battiste and the other half (electronic pieces we hear in the Beyond Life) belongs to Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross duo. Musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington and Quincy Jones were consulted as well. I can easily say as someone who has adored film music composed by Nine Inch Nails ever since watching “Lost Highway” that their soundtrack works as a great storyteller in the surreal place that can be called ‘Beyond Life’.
“Soul” is a must-watch movie for everyone with its existentialist search, music and high-quality animations! It is a story on losing and finding; one that reminds us the question “what is the purpose of life?” once again. It is a great remedy to the questions on existentialist worries we have been asking globally especially in the last year. Let’s be honest; we all lost something. Some of us lost their health, some lost their jobs, their sustenance, relatives due to illnesses, or almost did, in the best-case scenario. Some of us lost their self-esteem, life force, creative power, some of us lost loved ones due to ugly words spent during these horrible conditions. Dreams, future plans, the sparkle in our eyes, peace, mental health; all lost. We lost ourselves. We all lost. Now is the time to find these things again. Every single thing we have lost. One needs to start somewhere to be able to go on. We are all lost sometimes but what matters is never losing that spark inside!