When a mirror is prominently featured in moving picture entertainment, you can bet one of two things is going to happen.
If you’re watching something sentimental and the protagonist looks at his or her reflection, you’re in for a serious moment of self-realization. If you’re screening something from the horror or fantasy genres, then when the protagonist looks into a mirror, you can put big money he or she is going to see something that doesn’t belong. And it’s going to be freaky.
In the very first scene, our heroine (the titular Lumina, played by JuJu Chan) encounters a strange man on the other side of her living room mirror. When Lumina reacts with mild confusion instead of panic, we know we’re safely out of horror territory and into the land of fantasy. Lumina and the mirror-man quickly ease into a gentle, flirtatious courtship, the kind that happens so easily in film and TV when two beautiful people find each other. When the stranger turns out to be a Prince of another realm, it’s official – the series isn’t just a fantasy, but a fairytale.
Lumina makes some strong positive impressions right out of the gate. It’s gorgeous! It jumps right past broadcast quality and goes straight to visuals fit for a feature film. This is achieved in part by shooting with the RedOne digital camera, a relatively new movie-making tool that’s making waves with both indie filmmakers and big shots. The look of the series is the work of a pair of cinematographers from Austria, and they certainly make some magic with their high-grade gear.
The series takes place in metropolitan Hong Kong, and the city is captured in vivid images of bright lights and busy streets. The cast is loaded with unusually attractive faces; Lumina herself is played by a genuine model/beauty queen, and many members of the cast are smokin’. It’s a good looking show, is what I’m saying.
Of course, looks aren’t everything, and when it comes to acting, Lumina‘s cast falls short across the board. There’s a real inconsistency in terms of styles on display. Some actors overplay their roles with cartoonish facial expressions, and others make so little impression it’s hard to tell it’s hard to decipher a semblance of a personality. Some of these problems might come from the predominantly Chinese cast, several of whom don’t seem completely comfortable speaking English. You frequently get the impression that inflections and emotions are getting lost in translation. I would have liked to see the series performed in Chinese and subtitled in English, but I understand that when you ask a Western audience to read while being entertained, you’re risking a hefty portion of your audience.
The official website’s synopsis indicates a detailed mythology for the series, involving multiple mirror realms and a secret society of people who travel between worlds known as “mirroratti”. It will be nice to see these ideas explored in the series, as the relationship between the people in our world and those only accessible through the mirror is an intriguing concept.
In a scene from the first episode, Lumina is being driven in a car, and she spots her Prince reflected in the passenger side window. She leans her head against the window, and he leans his head towards hers. The effect is both of mirror image, and of two people leaning against each other. Moments like these suggest that writer/director Jennifer Thyme is aware of the potential for visual poetry and symbolism in Lumina‘s premise. If the rest of the nine-episode series goes farther down the path of the fantastic, Lumina‘s visual strength should be able to make up for it’s shortcomings.
Oh, and one last mark in the win column; each episode of Lumina ends with a different song over the credits (a la The Sopranos), and all of them (so far) have been excellent. If you get nothing else out of this series, you will get some sweet tunes for your iPod.
Check it out at LuminaSeries.com.