I've always been under the impression that Tarsem Singh's, The Cell was one of the most artistically intriguing films to ever be made. It wasn't a great film really, but the segments done in the minds of our characters were some of the most creative and oddly beautiful that I had ever seen. Sure, I could do without the police banter, and the miscasting of Vince Vaughn as an intelligent and haughty FBI agent--plus can I really buy that Jennifer Lopez's character smokes pot and frolics around in a sexy pair of black underwear while in the comfort of her own home?
Not so much. Still, you can't deny that The Cell has some truly breathtaking segments that are just cool looking.
I had always thought that The Cell was pretty original, that is until I did some research surrounding the artistic inspiration and then I thought a bit differently. This isn't necessarily a problem--people are inspired all the time and Tarsem's visions usually are pushed much further than the original inspirations go. What I find to be interesting however, is that Tarsem and his team rarely if ever, talk about the inspirations that went into the film and instead, the crew talks about his originality. After doing this research however, I've found that inspirations behind the art in The Cell are pretty damn interesting. Exact copies or not---this is the kind of art that makes YOU want to create---which is presumably why The Cell happened in the first place.
Damien Hirst was one of the dominating forces in the British art scene during the 1990s and still today is reported to be the wealthiest living artist in Great Britain. One of his most famous series involved taking actual dead animals, preserving them in formaldehyde and dissecting their bodies.
Most notably this was done with a cow, sometimes halved with its inside being exposed,
and other times broken into pieces.
Look familiar? It was this particular piece that inspired the famous horse scene in The Cell.
I do love this scene, and obviously it IS a bit different since we do get to witness the actual splitting of the horse. But I still find it odd that Hirst is not mentioned in the commentary on this particular scene. It's a pretty blatant "rip off" that the writer seems to get all the credit for--thanks to his insistence on using a horse, and yet I still find it to be one of the most effective scenes in Carl Stargher's head. Mostly, I can never seem to get that wildly fast ticking clock out of my head. Oh and P.S. little Carl Stargher is Lizzie McGuire's brother. Whatever happened to him?
I don't see a ton of influence by H.R. Giger in The Cell, but he is still referenced as a notable inspiration. Giger will be well known to us horror fans, as he won an Academy Award for Achievement in Visual Effects for Alien. It was in fact Giger's compendium of images, Necronomicon, that was given to Ridley Scott during Alien's pre-production that prompted him to hire Giger to produce the artwork and conceptual designs for the film. Perhaps this is why I fail to see a real correlation between Giger and The Cell. All I see is the alien...in erotic alien sex positions.
I feel very "naughty" when I look at these......*blush*
The only real sort of inspiration I can really see, is from this particular artwork from The Necronomicon.
I can definitely see a tad of inspiration taken for the design of Vincent D'Onofrio's scary alter ego in The Cell.
Although I suppose you could also see a bit of Jennifer Lopez's "slave" gear as well.
It IS a little alien-ish no?
Besides having a sweet ass name, Odd Nerdrum is Norwegian and made a name for himself by doing art that was not so agreeable to Norway's standards at the time. Now however, many realize that his art is pretty neat. Sometimes creepy, sometimes romantic--Nerdrum explains his art by calling it kitsch rather than art. It is these two paintings however that win the award for most direct inspiration.
If you combine what the three strange men (?) (I mean I think I can see their enormous bulges but who knows) are wearing with the position that the people are in the second one you get this extremely memorable image.
My love for this particular scene knows no bounds. In fact, it was this scene that got me infatuated with the film in the first place. It's insanely creepy and surreal, and the way that the three women whisper things and then go back to gaping at the sky, really does wonders on your mind.
The Brother's Quay
The kind of art that the Quay Brothers make, is the kind of art that keeps me up at night. By that I mean, it's creepy stop-animation short films featuring scary broken dolls, and sometimes creepy old men. Their most well known film, Street of Crocodiles is the epitome of this, and when one looks at it, it's not too difficult to figure out where The Cell got some of its inspiration from.
I speak mostly of the notable scene where J Lo is investigating all the "scenes" of the living dolls. Creepy, dusty surroundings, dolls with broken arms and faces--it may not be a literal inspiration but it still harkens back to the Quay Brothers...only more naked and scarier. Also, Carl's real life dolls found in his apartment could be considered cousins of the dolls in Street of Crocodiles me thinks.
Nine Inch Nails
Surprised are you? Didn't you know that when I use the term "art" I also mean things like music videos? Remember music videos? They were once integral parts of an artist's music career, and now they are lost somewhere on MTV2 and play only at 3 AM. Sigh.
While the Brother's Quay, Street of Crocodiles inspired in some ways The Cell--it was actually Street of Crocodiles (and Joel-Peter Witkin!) that inspired the Nine Inch Nails video Closer--directed by Mark Romanek. In my opinion--Closer carries most of the inspiration behind the dolls scene in The Cell.
I couldn't remember this video very well until I saw it, and then I remembered that I did remember it but I had blocked it out because it scared the crap out of me. I guess I didn't do well with monkey's tied to crucifixes and beating hearts tied to chairs...
It looks to me like the set design in the doll chamber was influenced directly by the set in Closer. Most notably this whole contraption of a wheel with cables, that opens up a sliding panel, revealing people behind it.
Nine Inch Nails
In the Cell these aren't weird old men however, these are scary dolls, and also a really muscular man/women.
Also, a neat thing in Closer---is this image of the two girls bound by their hair.
Which is actually an image taken from Fantastic Planet.
Which is what J. Lo chooses to fall asleep to in The Cell! Crazy I know.
I had forgotten how fucking scary Marilyn Manson is. If you read my story up top, you'll notice that one of my fears growing up was gothic people. No offense gothic people, but you scared the crap out of me when I was little... (and maybe still sort of today....). Marilyn Manson is like the grandaddy of my terror though. I remember back in the day, while watching MTV, Marilyn Manson always popped up on TRL and then I would run screaming into the next room.
His two Floria Sigismondi directed videos The Beautiful People and Tourniquet however, are what I think are the strongest inspirations for the design of the dolls in The Cell.
And while, there aren't any really scary tall people in long coat things in The Cell--it's really just the atmosphere, and the kind of brutality that exists in both of these music videos that really harkens back to The Cell. It's that gross dirty, sick, sexual, violence that really gets to you. A clear marker of tone if you ask me. Here are some more shots of creepiness thanks to Marilyn Manson.
It feels funny to put Madonna next to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails--but if you remember, Madonna's videos had their own special brand of creepiness to them as well. And believe it or not, Mark Romanek who directed Closer and The Perfect Drug for Nine Inch Nails, also directed Bedtime Story for Madonna. It is Bedtime Story, that contains another almost mirror image of a scene from The Cell.
This rotating cube, that contains visions of Madonna, can also be scene in one of the last scenes in The Cell, when Vince Vaughn and J. Lo are searching for the key to the lost girl's whereabouts.
There's also this very familiar color scheme happening in Bedtime Story,
that reminds me of the giant purple cape scene in The Cell.
Also, there are a few shots of Madonna in a pool with some creepy skeletal animals.
Which definitely echoes a few of Carl's dolls in The Cell.
So as you can see, inspirations comes from a million things apparently. Maybe that's what I love the most about The Cell, it really does feel like the best parts of the creepiest nightmares. For your viewing pleasure, I have also decided to include a few more of my favorite images from The Cell. Perhaps you'll be able to find other instances of inspiration?
Good grief, I think I'm unapologetically in love with the surreal scenes inside the mind of Carl in The Cell. How about you? Watch this video of J. Lo's first trip inside of the mind of Carl and try to tell me it's not the coolest looking thing ever....tons of rip offed images or not.