The year is 2021, and John (Joaquin Phoenix) is travelling to New York City by air for a rendez-vous with his wife, ice skater Elena (Claire Danes). They are getting a divorce, and the meeting is simply to sign the papers at the airport, as John has to catch a connecting flight later that day, but he is met there by two of Elena's security men, who insist on taking him to her hotel where she is preparing for that night's show. As they go down an escalator, John notices a body at the foot of it which people are stepping over - another victim of the mystery disease affecting increasing numbers, apparently at random. John expects to sign the papers and head off, but is soon caught up in a plot to replace Elena...
Scripted by the director Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov, this weird, atmospheric tale of doomed romance was not what audiences expected from the director and writers of the first Dogme 95 film, and was largely seen as an unfortunate mistake by a promising talent. It's true that it's not successful in its efforts to sum up any lovelorn malaise of the twenty first century, but it looks glacially beautiful for most of the time, which goes some way to compensate for its feeling of a poorly translated fairy tale. For example, Claire Danes' character is supposed to be Polish, but the accent she attempts is half-hearted at best; in fact almost all the actors are putting on accents, from Alun Armstrong's sinister manager to Douglas Henshall's worried assistant.
Another actor putting on a funny voice is Sean Penn, whose appearance is bizarre: whenever we see him when he is always stuck on a plane, he makes no interaction with the rest of the cast, and he is constantly talking on a mobile phone (isn't that dangerous on a flight?), supposedly to his brother John. He seems to have been added in later to clear up the confusion about the theme of "love makes the world go around, and the world is grinding to a halt". The human race dropping dead through lack of love, which our hero and heroine threaten to do at various times, isn't the only symptom of the Apocalypse, as the whole planet is undergoing the advancement of a new ice age, and some Ugandans are, erm, no longer affected by gravity. Why pick on the Ugandans?
The cast muddle through as best they can, but they come across as unsure of what their purpose is. John and Elena rekindle their relationship and hope for the world because, it turns out, Elena is fearing for her life and wants out of the ice skating business. Her employers are making too much money out of her to allow that, so they have cooked up a clever scheme, which Elena and John have an inkling of when they each spot mysterious doubles of Elena. What this ice skating mafia has in mind is to replace their star with exact copies, only distinguishable from the real thing by a metal tag stamped into the forearm - it's a concept more fitting for a second rate Star Trek episode, but that's what Vinterberg and Rukov want us to accept.
The photography is never less than gleaming, and shots taken all around the globe are certainly striking. There are haunting images here, such as the glass of water freezing in seconds, or the assassination which is staged as a dance to classical music. On the other hand, Danes' obviously has an ice skating double for the tricky bits, which are unconvicingly cut together with head and shoulders shots of her attempting to look as though she's done all that hard work herself. Not only that, but you keep expecting Penn to start rambling, "I love you, mate! You're my best friend, you are!" as if drunk. And there's a lot of playful grappling for some reason. It's difficult to tell what to make of It's All About Love, it's as arresting and strange as its final shot, but rather silly as well, obviously the work of gifted people, yet unsatisfying in light of the results. Music by Zbigniew Preisner.
Danish writer and director who graduated from short films to be one of the founders of the controversial Dogme 95 movement with his caustic family drama Festen. The next project of his to be seen internationally was the bizarre sci-fi romance It's All About Love. He followed this with gun drama Dear Wendy, another troubled family drama Submarino and provocative false accusation yarn The Hunt. The Commune was a semi-autobiographical tale of his upbringing. Vinterberg also directed the sleepy video for Blur's song "No Distance Left To Run".