Soul: A magical Life – The Reason We Live

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


Warning: In this article, I will record my thoughts and lessons learned through the movie Soul of Pixar. Therefore, the content will be spoiled. If you don't want to know the movie's content in advance, come back after watching the movie. The second issue, psychology and spirituality are pretty sensitive issues while I'm not an expert on that matter, so below are just my feelings and associations from my personal point of view from the details in the film. 

 The content of Pixar movies has always been about the characters with strong personalities. If, in the past, the movies often gave stories about characters realizing their dreams. For example, a mouse - an animal that is considered as a dirty animal in the kitchen corner but he has a dream to become a chef in Ratatouille (2007), the princess bends her bow to gain autonomy in her life in the movie named Brave (2012). Or the small fish in Finding Nemo (2002) crossed the vast ocean, leaving us with a classic saying "Keep Swimming". In Inside Out (2015) and Soul (2020), the world of the soul and the inside of the person are exploited more deeply. We understand that the things that appear on the outside are easy to see. For example, achievements and material things are not all of a person. Being successful and achieving our dreams is not a reason to live, not a reason for us to be in this world.

We sat for a long time until the screen went completely black. Throughout the movie, I was not distracted from trying to listen to every sentence and read every word. And it seemed that my soul was absorbed by the story in Soul. Before getting up, my friend asked "Why are you so thoughtful?", I answered

“I am jazzing”


Joe and passion for Jazz music

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


The film opened with chaotic sounds in the music class at the middle school with the class teacher Joe - the main character. Joe was passionate about playing Jazz, and he had a burning passion to become a Jazz artist like his father, but the path to become a professional pianist is not easy. After countless failures, Joe became a teacher music and was offered to teach officially at the beginning of the film.

With this piece of music, I was reminded of the character Sebastian in Lalaland. It was still America, the piano, the lively Jazz, and the fools who dreamed in a harsh reality with rice and money. Why Jazz? In my opinion, because Jazz creates the feeling of America. Jazz has begun by the end of the 19th century by African Americans. They have combined Indigenous culture with contemporary European instruments (trumpet, piano, drums). Jazz music has been inspired by modern American life referring to cultural, artistic and racial diversity. One thing that is most noticeable in jazz music at first is improvisation. It is a very adventurous feeling when the trumpeter closes his eyes, the person following the music seems to be lost in the music's own world.

Perhaps in the movie, when it comes to pursuing passion, art fields like music are brought to the screen more poetic than other scientific professions. But that's not what I want to delve into here. Joe's dream has been to perform in a local theater. It is not something so big as a large stage with millions of spectators, which is praised in the press all over the world. That gives me a feeling of closeness and real life, dreams no matter how small or big are still dreams.

Music is all I think about from the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night.

Joe hesitated when making the decision to accept the official job offer at the middle school, because that was also when he accepted a stable life and put aside his dream of performing professionally. That same day, Joe received an offer to perform with a famous band in New York. When a lifelong dream was about to come true, Joe has had an accident, fallen into a coma, and has been close to death.

Usually, the main character was about to die, but in Soul, Joe's soul left the body to bring the audience to an inner world and begin the journey to discover the soul with philosophical details and social psychology.


22 and Self Workshop

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


Another world mentioned by Soul is the Afterlife (the world after the death of a person), and the Beforelife (the world before the person is born, preparing to come to earth). In the journey to escape from the afterlife, not accepting that he is dead, Joe lost in the previous world and met 22.

In the previous realm, the lovely little souls would go through the You Seminar. Here, they are given unique and special personalities by entering the white houses, then leaving happily. Souls will have 6 pieces to complete their personality, then paired with instructions to find the final piece - called the Spark. The instructors are extremely successful figures in certain fields including presidents, doctors of science, doctors, musicians, athletes, etc. They are hoped to help the little soul find its essence.

Spirits will be found in the Hall of Things, which draws inspiration from the outside world, or the Hall of Self, where there are select moments in the instructor's life for the little soul to find its soul. . Seven completed pieces will make up the life card, bringing souls ready to come down to earth to begin earthly life. The introduction to the spirit fire stops at the question "So what is the fire?" Before being answered, Joe hastily thought of the prospect of how to get a life card to return to earth. And that is the most difficult answer in every person's life.

I don't know why it's called "Spark", but the original English word is "spark". Speaking of this, I immediately think of the familiar keywords "tipping point", "burning passion", "burning enthusiasm". Spark also means feeling excited, excited. Joe hastily gave the definition of fire to 22


Fire is passion and purpose in life.

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


For Joe, it's jazz music.

22 is a character exploited in the movie. Joe was paired with 22 at the Self Workshop. Why are the other souls numbered so large, several hundred million, and this soul has the number 22? For me, 22 is an impressive number, it reminds me of my most difficult time, 22 years old after graduating from university. And character 22 was me at that time, I didn't know what I liked. I didn't know what to do and I was always scared, afraid that I wasn't good enough, I was afraid that I would fail.  I was afraid of mistakes and I dared not do anything. chief. In her mind, there was always an illusion that she was useless and unable to do anything. The virtual community explains that the character was named 22 because Soul is the 22nd movie from Pixar, but I think that 22 here refers to the age, which indicates the time when most people come into life and they are forced to face their problems.

In Soul, these souls become babies to be born. But I think, it's like fresh graduates who are about to face life's problems. The first 6 pieces are personality and skills formed at a young age under the influence of the living environment, then education includes kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, high school, and university. There are enough for 6 parts. And the number 7 is the quintessence, the space that needs to be completed in order for us to live, which we are always looking for. This part reminds me of the question we used to ask each other in college "what do we come to earth to do?".

This self-conference reminds me of the Self-Development Workshops, Skills courses, getting rich... that have classic sentences like "How to be successful and rich", "You must have passion". I used to sit in it too, it was really "inspirational" (and sometimes it felt like being brainwashed). We always see successful, and outstanding people around. But is that knowledge enough to find the purpose of life?

Such is the case with 22. The number 22, while the number of souls paired immediately before 22 is several hundred million. It indicates that the character 22 has gone through a lot of Self Workshops. it has been guided by many great figures, including Mother Teresa, Queen of France Marie Antoinette and US president Abraham Lincoln, but 22 still couldn't find her soul, she had no interest, she didn't know she was down. What is the earth for? As Joe and 22 made their way through the hall of things, she got to try many different jobs such as playing the piano, being a firefighter, or even serving as president. All of them ended with the comment "Pale!". The world was boring in the thought of 22 as a metaphor for the life of young people, nothing made them see the forest alive.

The faint white color in the hall of things clearly depicts that answer of "Pale" . 22 was able to see what the world had but there was no sensations, no taste, no pain or even emotions. The world of things of 22 was much but it was an observation without experiencing. How could one know the taste of Pizza when there was no taste, how could one find the purpose of one's life just by going to a conference.


Jerry and education

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


Soul carefully delivered educational messages to people. There was a very short detail. When Jerry brought the little souls into the houses that shape personality and skills, Jerry asked: “Is it giving too many children to have this skill? Or the way to shape the personality of souls  was very random, without any prior calculation. And in the case of 22, the environment and methods and the instructors completely failed to help her find the essence.

22 knew a lot of knowledge, she easily read the names of Treatments, complicated terms. She knew Pizza but had never tasted. This section as a clever reference to the educational environment was full of theory and lack of practice.

 Connie and the kids in school

 Connie was a student in Joe's class. Connie was an interesting character but a little bit of a cast. Connie was a student who had a talent for playing the trumpet but was studying in the midst of a bored group. Once again, Connie's story also raised issues in education.

When Joe talked about his passion for music, the first time he saw a musician playing Jazz and then found his passion, he began knowing he was born to play music. Joe asked Connie if he understood that feeling? Connie only answered with one sentence "I'm 12 years old". Passion, inspiration were quite abstract things, but it was very difficult for a child to understand.

Connie went to Joe to say she was giving up music, because she found all the subjects in school useless. Now 22, in the form of Joe, a theoretical man had offered a very familiar view about the inadequacies of school education.

“Once you learn, you learn a lot, but you don't apply much. The curriculum uses the curriculum of the 20th century when it is now the 21st century.” _George Orwell 

At this point, Connie realized to herself, "I've known those things since 3rd grade". A child could recognize problems, it was just that sometimes they did not speak up and don't get heard. Still the question "Why are students not good?"


Lost souls

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


I've been thinking about the difference between "living" and "existing". And there are many people who exist but they don't really live. Those are lost souls.

Lost souls are mentioned by Soul in the world between materials and spirit. The example given here is a financial officer, sitting in front of a computer screen and muttering "Transaction, transaction", so that when he wakes up he raises his head and asks himself:

“What am I doing with my life?”

The sight of him is to get up, pushing away the computer desk, showing that he also has no passion for his work, it's simply the right thing to do.

Lost souls are surrounded by darkness and can become terrifying "monsters". Just like when we are stressed, we are very irritable, grumpy, hurting people and creating fear to the people around us. And in the world between material and spirit, there are many lost souls.

Even 22 sometimes became a lost soul, after a long time struggling to find the spirit fire. Then the first time she felt like living, but that opportunity was stolen. Soul also skillfully offered an explanation about meditation, introspection, adventure, and loss of interest. The people with the role of spirituality, healing, and psychics are portrayed through the group Moon Wind very humorously.


The barber Dez and daily stories

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


My favorite part is when Joe and 22 went to Dez's barbershop, now 22 was in Joe's body, tasting the sweetness of a lollipop for the first time, comfortably sitting on the barber chair and talking about thoughts. She learned from the instructors with the same concerns.

Is this life worthy of our desire? What if we choose the wrong path? - 22

Here, Joe, in the form of a cat, realized that even though he was a regular customer and a close friend of Dez, he had never asked Dez about your life, but only talked endlessly about Jazz. This passage made me understand, it is listening and sharing about very everyday things that made two people understand each other better and closer. Dez also shared about his career choice, when his dream of becoming a doctor did not come true.  Due to his family background, he became a barber. But it is not because the dream was not fulfilled that Dez was not satisfied with this life. Dez was still cheerful, optimistic, bringing beauty to the customers who came to his barbershop. It was because that this life was worth not just because of success.

Although Dez only appeared once and was very short, he left me with 2 lessons: about friendship and about why people live happily even though their dreams didn't come true.


Spirit and reason for life

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


At this point, vaguely, the concept of quintessence, the final piece in human life and the reason we live, is gradually defined.

Your spark isn't your purpose. That last box fills in when you're ready to come live.

22 found the spark, completed the last piece to form a living card because of the delicious taste of Pizza, the sweetness of candy bars, by the music of the artist in the train station, by the light touch of the sunlight, of the wind, of the petals flying, and even the shouting of the grumpy old man in the train station. That is life.

Back to Joe's story, when he got his hands on success. He convinced his mother of his choice to play in the band, put on a smart suit, and played a brilliant, lauded night. But the space after the performance reminded me of the question "After success, dream achieved, then what to do?".

I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to an older fish and says: “I'm trying to find this thing they call the ocean.” “The ocean?” the older fish says, “that's what you're in right now.” “This”, says the young fish, “this is water. What I want is the ocean!”

Joe's life was only Jazz music. It was a story that he told every day to the people around him. Performance was something he was willing to die and live again to achieve. But when he achieved it, he still felt empty. After all, work is just the part of people who spend 8 hours a day (maybe more). Many people have been successful at work, but their lives are not completed. It was that when he sat alone after the show, Joe noticed that incompleteness. Joe recalled other moments that made him happy, going to lessons, watching fireworks or simply sitting in a cafe enjoying a cake. As it turned out that he was in the middle of happiness but still he was still busy searching, like a little fish looking for the ocean. Spirit is not a passion, it is an inspiration to live, a reason for us to live, even though this life is not easy. And  we can always make mistakes.

This isn't about my career, it's my reason for living.


Soul and life story

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


Soul skillfully brings up issues about life through the characters. Joe's mother, for example, opposes her son's path to become a performer because she was worried about his future. But she had always prepared for him the most dainty suit to stand on stage.

The character Paul, a grumpy man in a barbershop, represents people who often mocke others when they talk about their dreams. Here when 22 made a strong sarcastic, he criticized others to fill the sadness of unfulfilled dreams. It was also shortly after, when Paul accidentally stepped into the lake and had a few seconds in hell that scared him. Soul gives a humorous remind to young people to give up fast food, live healthy. And when people are about to die, they will appreciate this life.

The character of Terry reminds me of meticulous, principled, mechanical people who are ready to dig deep and do not accept even the smallest mistakes. Terry also expected achievements, likes praise, and achieves goals no matter what.

The most profound thing I see in Soul is the balance between work and life. We work to live, not live to work.

Towards the end of the movie, when Joe calmly stood on the conveyor belt going to the afterlife (like a bridge to bring the deceased to the underworld), it reminds me of the question that many people have asked "If today were to Doomsday, what do you want to do?”. What is it in this life that makes us wonder? If at the beginning of the film, Joe was trying to run in the opposite direction to avoid death, then the image of smiling with satisfied eyes heading towards the bright light shows that Joe had his own answer and he did the last thing he wanted to do with this life.


How are you going to spend your life?

Soul (2020 film) Pixar

Credit : Soul/Pixar


I'm not sure, but I do know I'm gonna live every minute of it.

Soul talks about death (the state of the soul leaving the body) along with complex issues related to spirituality (the previous world, the afterlife), psychology, education, and human development in a very cute way. For example, the souls are drawn round and beautiful or the spiritual world of people appears very shimmering. Just like in Coco (2017), the underworld is depicted in color, not a bit creepy. In Soul, the colors are more restrained, gentle colors are somewhat sparkling. That is what I like about cartoons. When the real world is metaphorical, and magical, so it is miracle to give a profound content.

When we were still sitting in silence until the screen went off, I heard a baby's voice behind me " I don't like this movie at all ". Actually, I think Soul is not a movie for children. It will be too much for a child under 10 years old to make them understand about life and about passion. Pixar movies are films for adults, when they return to the most innocent things to look back at complex issues in daily life.

Although the film also has the "slightly quick turn of the wheel". When letting the characters realize the "truth",  there is something not very convincing. But not every movie brings up such a profound issue. Not every movie makes me teary-eyed even though it's clear that it has an absolute ending. And not every movie can make me sit down until the end of the screen when it is over. Moreover, I like Pixar, so I am satisfied with a very adventurous Jazz music party, inspirational and close messages. Sometimes I also wonder what the scenarist consumes, what to do to be able to come up with such stories.



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