Eye of the Beholder

Released in 1999.

Director: Stephan Elliot

Staring: Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, The Phantom Menace), Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy, The Passion of Darkly Moon).

DVD Features: Director's comments on/off, language options, cast featurettes.

You'll know Stephan Elliot from his work writing and direction The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He has accomplished something rather startling with this film that's likely to disappoint a fair number of people, based mainly on the fact that this is not, in fact, a suspense thriller.

The movie deals heavily with themes of numerology, fate, and the consequences of our actions.

Ewan McGregor plays Eye, a genius surveillance expert for an unnamed agency. From the importance he seems to command with the police, he has to be more than a casual private detective, and one suspects that he works under some government agency, but this is never made terribly clear.

Eye is pulled off of his current work to follow the Boss' son and discover whether he has been embezzling his trust fund. However, we soon find that his abandonment 7 years ago by his wife (and the daughter he has never seen) has driven him into a state of madness.

What perhaps is so interesting, at least to myself, about Eye's madness, is that he is aware of it. He has, in fact, created it himself as an element of his naturally obsessive focus. The daughter he has never seen follows him everywhere, talking to him, cajoling, demanding, alternately speaking from his conscience and his desire. Perhaps one of the most amazing scenes in the film occurs in the midst of an important surveillance operation as the girl appears in multiple places in the apartment at once, making a variety of different noises and singing in a quite marvellous piece of sound work.

The film is suffused with images of circles, of patterns, and the elements of numerology and fate. The characters can see what is coming clearly, yet are powerless to avoid their respective fates, and even seem eager to meet them.

The film style has certain elements reminiscent of the Wachowski brother's 1996 effort, Bound, in a manner of camera angles and juxtapositions.

The movie is, over all, quite beautiful, a dark poem if you will. If you watch this, watch it because the moods and images created therein are beautiful and captivating and stark...not because you need an action/suspense flick for a Friday night. This is a movie for examination and exploration, if you like that kind of thing.

Eye of the Beholder is a fairly early 3D computer 'role-playing' game. As with all such efforts before about Planescape: Torment, the role-playing aspect is nil, but it's still an excellent game. It's written by SSI and Westwood Associates, and clearly draws on the legacy of FTL software's Dungeon Master. Movement is on a square-by-square basis, and the VGA graphics are quite lush.

The story is set in, or rather under, Waterdeep in the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms gameworld - by implication, in or around Undermountain. The rules of the game are a surprisingly good imitation of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition - although there's a nifty exploit linked to the fact that the designers over-estimated the XP value of kenku. To return to the plot: your PCs have been asked to investigate mysterious goings-on in the sewers beneath Waterdeep. On arrival in the tunnels, however, the group is mysteriously imprisoned by a rock-fall. Only by discovering secret passages and overcoming some slightly implausible monster opponents can you proceed, and discover the secret of Xanathar!

The game was followed by two sequels: Eye of the Beholder II: Legend of Darkmoon and Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor.

Spoilers ahead!

Level 1: Sewers. Inhabitants: Kobolds and giant leeches.
Level 2: Sewers. Inhabitants: Skeletons and Zombies.
Level 3: Sewers. Inhabitants: Kuo-toa and Flind.
Level 4: Grey stone catacombs. Inhabitants: Giant spiders.
Level 5: Grey stone catacombs. Inhabitants: Dwarves and giant spiders.
Level 6: Grey stone catacombs. Inhabitants: Kenku and one angry mage.
Level 7: Purple stone tunnels. Inhabitants: Drow and skeleton warriors.
Level 8: Purple stone tunnels. Inhabitants: Driders and hellhounds.
Level 9: Purple stone tunnels. Inhabitants: Displacer beasts and rust monsters.
Level 10: Green gungy catacombs. Inhabitants: Thri-kreen.
Level 11: Green gungy catacombs. Inhabitants: Mind flayers and xorn.
Level 12: Grey stone overlaid with mock victoriana in a horrible mauve hue. Inhabitants: Stone golems and the Big Awful. If you haven't guessed the identity of Xanathar, I'm not going to tell you.

There are twelve special quests spread through the game, one per level, and originally there was said to be a prize if you completed all of them and informed SSI. The Amiga version of this game had better cut-scenes than the PC version.

Tips:

To escape the first level, look for two hidden switches, and be prepared to leave something behind.
If at all possible, pick all three locks at the beginning of level two.
On level four, in the room with all the sayings about King Kruen, close the left and right doors, open the middle one and pull the chain. You will receive a powerful magic axe called Drow Slayer.
Keep all stone items - they begin appearing early on. They're portal keys.
Before descending to level seven from level six, ensure that the door into the wide passages, unlocked with a gold key, is open. Failure to do so can result in locking yourself out of about a fifth of the game, including some very useful rooms.
On level nine, in the area beginning 'donate', you can find a +5 long sword, one of the best weapons in the game. Its name is Severious.

Imagine a beach at night. A soft, balmy breeze caresses your skin as you walk barefoot in the sand. You gently squeeze your lover’s hand as you both stare up at the full moon glowing bright overhead. You look down and see the moon’s pale light shining in the ocean’s waves, paving a white, shimmering highway headed out to sea.

Kinda makes me wish I was there.

Well, last night I was, at least in part. I was walking home late along a trail down by the James River, just below the Falls. Down there the river is serene and sedate, flowing along majestically on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

I wasn’t looking at anything in particular. The city lights across the river. The cars zooming by on the I-95 bridge a half-mile downriver. The light clouds overhead in the dark, moonless sky.

Then I looked down at the water below me and saw the same shimmering path made by that full moon on the beach. The same pale white light, the same sparkling ripples in the water.

But there was no moon. I looked up, and my eyes followed the path of light back to its source, a huge billboard beside the interstate, screaming out in bold letters

MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT

$68,000,000

I looked back down at the water. It was odd. If I focused on that reflection in the waves, it was easy to imagine I was back at the beach, looking at a full moon low on the horizon. But the second I looked up and saw that hideous billboard, the illusion was gone, evaporating like so much smoke. But the view of the water was the same.

Then it struck me. The only difference between the two -– between seeing the sign and not seeing the sign –- was me. Me and my perception of the world. Me and my attitude towards it.

One view was beautiful. One was not. And I was all that stood between them.

I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.