Cube (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cube is a 1997 Canadian sci-fi/horror movie directed by Vincenzo Natali.

The film was a very successful product of the Canadian Film Centre's First Feature Project. Despite its low budget, the film achieved moderate commercial success and has acquired cult status as a niche science-fiction title.

Plot Summary

Much of the film's appeal lies in its surreal, Kafkaesque settings — no extensive attempt is made to explain what the cube in which the characters are confined is, why it is created, or how the "inmates" were selected. Although the world "outside" is referred to, it is presented in an extremely abstract fashion - either a dark void or a bright white light.

The film opens with a man named Alderson waking up in a strange, cube-shaped room with glowing, computer circuit-like walls and six doors, one at the center of each wall, including the ceiling and floor. After recovering from his confusion, he opens two of the doors and looks into them to find rooms that differ to the one he is in only in color. He then opens and goes through a third door. He looks around and then takes a step, but is suddenly cut into large cubes. He falls apart and the rack of crosshatched wires which diced him moves into view. It folds up and retracts.

In another room, several people find each other: Quentin the cop, Worth the office worker, Holloway the doctor, Rennes the escape artist, and Leaven the college student. None of them know where they are, how they got there, or why they are there. Quentin, however, knows that there are traps, as he had looked into a room and nearly got his head cut off. The five decide to stay together and look for the way out. Rennes, who had escaped from at least seven prisons, takes the lead. He shows them how to test for traps by tossing a boot into the rooms while holding onto the laces, to trigger potential traps. Not long later, Rennes jumps into a room tested with a boot, and is sprayed in the face with acid. The others pull him back, but he dies as the acid corrodes his face. The group deduces that the floor must have pressure or thermal sensors, and decide that they need a better way to test for traps.

Quentin asks everyone about their occupations. He is a cop, Holloway is a free clinic doctor, and Worth works "in an office building, doing office building stuff". Leaven claims to do nothing but "hang out" with her friends. Quentin believes that nothing is a coincidence, that each of them has a purpose in the cube. He asks why Leaven has her glasses, while Holloway has had her jewelery taken away. Leaven reveals herself to excel at mathematics, and recalls that each room had a set of numbers engraved in the crawlspace between the doors. She theorizes that when one of those numbers is prime, the room is trapped.

Leaven's purpose becomes "cracking the cube's code", and they progress through the cubes. When they find themselves in a room with traps rooms all around and below, Quentin checks the door in the ceiling, through which falls a seventh person: Kazan. He appears to be mentally handicapped. At least two of the others see him as a burden, but Holloway decides to bring him along.

The group starts speculating about their surroundings, which leads to a conflict between Quentin and Holloway. Quentin dismisses Holloway's ideas as conspiracy theories, and Holloway thinks that Quentin is naïve. They also fight over Holloway's sympathy for Kazan, whom she believes to be autistic, as Quentin is angered by him and wants to leave him behind.

Quentin enters a cube without prime numbers and narrowly avoids death. Leaven's theory that non-prime-numbered rooms are safe is shown to be incorrect, and the group rests. Worth and Quentin get into a fight, and it is revealed that Worth is one of the architects who designed the massive cube-shaped shell which contains the cube-shaped rooms. Although the others begin to distrust Worth, he is able to give them information about the dimensions of the outer cube: it is 434 feet on each side. Leaven then realizes that the numbers between the cubes represent encoded Cartesian coordinates, which show where each room is located in the cube. With this information, she can now guess at the size of the maze. She paces 14 feet, and deduces that the maze could be at most, 26 cubes by 26 cubes by 26 cubes, or 17576 rooms. (Although not stated in the film, her calculations seem to be based on the correct assumption that the outer dimensions of the rooms are one and a half feet longer than their inner dimensions, so that each room measures 15.5 feet on an external side. One could calculate the external dimensions from the length of tunnels between rooms.) Using the encoded coordinates, she is able to determine that they are seven rooms from one face of the cube. (It is not shown how she knows which direction to travel, since the rooms apparently contain no information about their orientation with respect to the axis of the coordinate system.)

As they make their way there, Quentin is gradually driven mad by his conflicts with Worth and Holloway, and his annoyance with Kazan. He becomes to seem cold and malicious. The group reaches a room near one face of the cube, but it is trapped with spears that come out of the walls when activated by sounds other than those of the doors opening and closing. Quentin refuses to backtrack, insisting that they can pass through this room if they are very quiet. He tries to leave Kazan behind, but Holloway and Worth get Kazan to cover his mouth and follow. As the last person, Quentin, is passing through, Kazan makes a sound. Quentin is nearly killed and is extremely angered. Everyone begins to argue.

The group finally reaches the last room in that direction, but discovers that there is a gap between the door and the outer shell. They fashion a rope from their clothes, and Holloway volunteers to swing out on the rope to investigate. As she is suspended outside the room, the cube shakes and Holloway nearly falls. Quentin catches her, but then lets her fall to her death. He tells the others that she slipped.

As they sleep, Quentin carries Leaven into another room. He tells her that they will "be going to the bottom. It will be quiet there". As he tries to convince Leaven to abandon the others, he also makes sexual advances at her. Worth and Kazan wake up to save Leaven. Quentin says that he did not trust Holloway, and the group guesses that Holloway's death was not an accident. Enraged, Quentin throws Worth through a door in the floor. Worth begins to laugh hysterically at what he sees in that room: Rennes's corpse. They think that they have been going in circles, but then Worth notices that the "acid room" which killed Rennes is no longer adjacent to that room. He and Leaven realize that the rooms change locations by moving about in the large cube periodically.

Leaven deducts that the sets of numbers connected to a room represent something other than its traps and current location: the numbers can undergo permutations, and those show how a room moves through the cube. After some calculation, Leaven discovers that a room they have been in would be between the cubed rooms and the outer cube - a bridge to the outside world. If they had stayed in the room they started in, they would have eventually been linked to the bridge cube and thus the exit (though this means that they may not have found Kazan). Leaven also discovers that the trapped cubes are those whose numbers include a power of a prime (including, of course, the first power). The prisoners then face the task of performing prime factorizations of three-digit numbers – a difficult task in some cases (though not as difficult as Leaven presents it). Fortunately, Kazan appears to be a autistic savant and performs the factorizations easily. He utters the number of distinct prime factors each number has, as Leaven reads it to him.

They make their way towards the exit safely with Kazan's help. Worth devises a plan to incapacitate Quentin, who has gone completely mad. Leaven, Worth, and Kazan fight Quentin into a room below them and leave him to die. They proceed and reach the bridge cube. When they open its door, bright light pours into the room. Worth announces that he will not go, as there is nothing for him in the world outside. As he and Leaven share a moment, Quentin suddenly appears and kills Leaven by stabbing her with a door handle he took from a door. He stabs Worth as well, and grabs Kazan, who is climbing out. Worth grabs Quentin's leg with the last of his strength, and Quentin is crushed in the crawlspace between the cubes when the cubes realign. Having saved Kazan, Worth lies down next to Leaven and dies.

In the final shot, Kazan is seen walking slowly into bright light, possibly a reference to "the light" which describes a passage into the afterlife. A possible explanation is given in Cube Zero, though that movie was not written by Natali and is not part of his concept.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cube (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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