Carl unfortunately had a seizure under the water during his baptism and this somehow locked him into a psychological state of death.
-Review by David Bruce

( August 18, 2000)

This page was created on Friday, December 03, 1999
and was updated
May 31, 2005

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Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Mark Protosevich

Jennifer Lopez .... Catharine Deane
Vince Vaughn .... Peter Novak
Vincent D'Onofrio .... Carl Stargher
Marianne Jean-Baptiste .... Dr. Miriam Kent
Jake Weber .... Gordon Ramsey
Dylan Baker .... Henry West
James Gammon .... Teddy Lee
Patrick Bauchau .... Lucien Baines
Tara Subkoff .... Julia Hickson
Catherine Sutherland .... Anne Marie Vicksey
Jake Thomas .... Young Carl Stargher
Dean Norris .... Cole
Musetta Vander .... Ella Baines
Gerry Becker .... Dr. Cooperman
Colton James .... Edward Baines
Lauri Johnson .... Mrs. Hickson
John Cothran Jr. .... Agent Stockwell

Produced by Julio Caro, Donna Langley (executive), Carolyn Manetti (executive), Eric McLeod, Mark Protosevich (co-producer), Stephen J. Ross (CO-producer), Nico Soultanakis (associate)
Original music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Paul Laufer
Film Editing by Robert Duffy and Paul Rubell

Rated R
for bizarre violence, sexual images, nudity, and language.

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See QT trailer (15 MB)

A perilous journey through the psyche of a murderer.

Jennifer Lopez stars as a child therapist involved in a breakthrough research program who is asked to journey inside the mind of comatose serial killer in the hope of saving his latest victim. As she embarks on an uncharted and perilous journey through the psyche of a murderer, an FBI agent (Vince Vaughn) must race against time to uncover clues that may help locate the missing girl.

Directed by the award-winning commercial and music video director Tarsem, the film will be visually distinctive with groundbreaking special effects. The Cell also stars Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vance, Jake Weber, Patrick Bauchau, and James Gammon. The Cell is produced by Julio Caro and Eric McLeod from a screenplay by Mark Protosevich.

David BruceTHE CELL
Christian baptism in water is both a symbol of the grave and re-birthing. Carl unfortunately had a seizure while under the water and he never experienced his full baptism. -This somehow locked him into a psychological state of death.
-Review by David Bruce

Click for largerA BLACK HORSE, A WHITE ANGEL in a SALVADOR DALI dreamscape. The film opens with child therapist Catharine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) in the mind of a boy trying to help him back to reality. Symbols abound -a bleak hopeless landscape, -an angel on a journey for truth, -a sailboat without a body of water. (This waterless wasteland mindscape will stand in sharp contrast with the mindscape of the serial killer, which is all about water).

Click for largerCONTROL CENTRAL. The journey into other people's mind is conducted in a restricted laboratory environment. The technicians and researchers view their experimental projects from behind a glass window. This is in contrast to the glass tank that the serial killer views his victims through. It is also interesting to note that this control center is located below ground level and just outside the building are pools of water. The parallels to the facility of the serial killer are remarkably similar. And all of it relates to water baptism.

Click for largerSUSPENSION BY WIRES gives the body of those participating in the journey inside the mind the feeling of floating weightless, as if in water. In contrast to this, in one of the opening scenes we also see a woman floating lifelessly in a tank of water in a crucified position. She is the seventh victim of a serial killer. Subliminally identifying her with the crucified Christ helps us see her as an innocent


Click for largerSUSPENDED BY CHAINS. We are given a shocking view of Carl Stargher, the serial killer, who also "floats" above his victims through the use of chains attached to 14 steel rings pierced though his skin. We later learn that this gives him the feeling of floating on water.
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THE WATER TANK. In an underground basement Carl imprisons his female victims in a glass tank that slowly fills with water. Anne Marie Vicksey (Catherine Sutherland) is the 8th victim. In the Hebrew Scriptures, circumcision happens on the 8th day. In Christian Scriptures, circumcision corresponds to baptism. Biblically, the number 8 is the number of new beginnings, new birth, new creation.
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Click for largerTHE BAPTISM OF DEATH. When Carl was a boy he was baptized in a river by his church. Baptism is an act that symbolizes death and resurrection. Going down into the water is a re-enactment of the death of Jesus Christ and coming up out of the water signifies his resurrection. The baptismal water is both a symbol of the grave and re-birthing. Carl unfortunately had a seizure while under the water and he never experienced the other half of his baptism (i.e. resurrected life, rebirth). -This somehow locked him into a psychological state of death. He came to believe that baptizing his victim with a baptism devoid of a resurrection would set them free. He had baptism turned upside down. Following the death of his victims, he would drain the water from the tank, remove the victim's body and bleach it powder white -a symbol of purity and sinlessness. This served as resurrection of sort into -not life- but death!

It is also interesting to note that Carl's pet dog is a rare albino (bleach white) which was purchased from a breeder in Riverside! Clever bit of writing here.

Click for largerSAVING ANNE MARIE. Shortly after abducting Anne Marie, Carl has a stroke that puts him in a comma. It is irreversible and only he knows where Anne Marie is. She must be found before the tank fills and she drowns. The only way to locate her is to enter his mind. Both Catharine and a police detective enter Carl's mind.

Click for largerBAPTISMAL WATERS AND SYMBOLS EVERYWHERE. Carl's mindscape is filled with water and baptism images. Later, when Catharine meets the adult Carl, the motif continues to be water centered. Note the 2 photos below with water-drop-like jewels on Carl's collar and the ocean theme room decorations.

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Click for largerVICTIMS WEAR COLLARS. Carl dominates his women victims, like his dad did his mother. Carl makes unique collars for them. He controls and rules over these unfortunate women. -They become just like his pet albino dog. And more, he handles these women as though they were Barbie dolls -subhuman.

Click for largerBAPTISMAL TANK AS A PRISON. Catharine finds herself in a tank, as though she were a fish. In this scene she experiences a resurrection through the top of the tank and experiences the rapture of flight. Totally symbolic.

Click for largerTHE ADULT CARL MEETS CARL THE BOY. We discover that Carl is a complex individual. We meet his little boy self and his adult self. It is through the little boy that we come to understand some of his evolution into the monster he becomes as an adult.

Click for largerTHE SELF AS THE CENTER. The room of the self is painted gold. Carl's mind has many rooms. This is his adult-self stronghold. Catharine finds it difficult to conquer Carl's powerful self will.

Click for largerTHE SELF IS LIKE A GOD-LIKE DEMONIC ANGEL. The 14 steel rings in his back serve many symbolic purposes. In this scene they are connected to yards of fabric creating the sense of demonic angel wings. Catharine finds her self powerless to change the 'self' of another person. And so it is.

Click for largerTHE DETECTIVE. Joining Catharine on one of her trips into the mind of the serial killer is detective Peter Novak.
Click for largerWOMEN IN SYNC. Peter confronts his own set of symbols while in the mind of Carl. Both Catharine and Peter bring their own fantasies and symbols with them, and these interact with those of Carl.

Click for largerBECOMING A VICTIM. Catharine is taken captive by Carl's strong self. She is placed on a bed in seductive manner.

Click for largerBLACK WIDOW. When Peter discovers her, she has been fitted with a red collar, a facemask and dressed in a black lace skin-tight gown, which gives her the appearance of a black widow. The combination of sexuality and death. She has become the Great Whore, which will be contrasted later with the virgin Mary.

Click for largerJUDAS KISS. True to the role of a black widow spider she delivers a kiss of betrayal to Peter.

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Click for largerCARL'S INNER DEMON. This whole film is profoundly symbolic. Carl's self-centeredness has given place to demon possession. The satanic demon now seeks to posses Catharine. Overcome by Carl's evil, Catharine and Peter end their session and return to the real world.
Click for largerTHE ROLE OF BIRDS. The vulture pictured here is, of course, a symbol of death. There is another bird in the story that brings us key insight. As a little boy Carl found a bird with an injured wing. Carl's cruel father found out and Carl did not want his father to take the bird away. "So I took the bird to the sink and held it under the water. Better for the bird. I saved it." With this story we now have a little insight into his criminal mind and why he drowns women.
Click for largerCHANGING MINDS. In an untried procedure, Catharine brings Carl into her mind, instead of going into his. She can control her mind environment better. Before the transfer she focused on a picture of Virgin Mary. The only way to bring change to a self-centered and destructive person is through intervention of God.

Click for largerCARL ENTERS CATHERINE'S MIND AND FINDS THE VIRGIN MARY WELCOMING THE BOY WITH OPEN ARMS. The mindscape is set in spring -the time of new life, resurrection and death to the winter. There are blue skies, spring blossoms, sky blue water, and even a peacock.

Click for largerCRUCIFYING THE SELF. Virgin Mary turns into a black dressed angel of death and pins Carl's dark side to the ground in a crucified position and drives a sword into him. Transforming back to the Virgin Mary, she now turns her attention to the innocent little boy.

Click for larger"SAVE ME" BEGS THE BOY. Virgin Mary picks up the boy in a manner suggestive of the Madonna (Mary with the Child). She brings the boy over to the baptismal font and baptizes him into his final death. His wounded hand falls lifeless into the water. -Just like the wounded bird so many years before. Blood and water mix -highly symbolic. The film cross cuts with the rescue of Anne Marie from her baptism of death. She has been resurrected to life anew.


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The Cell © 2000 New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved.