Films & Architecture: "Cube"

Films & Architecture: "Cube"

Cube is a movie that cannot be highlighted by its cinematographic features. However, the idea of a perfect space driven by geometrical logics seems an attractive subject for us, architects. Along the film, the characters try to solve the twisted organisation of this “cube” in order to find their way out.

Have you already seen this movie? Share your thoughts about idealisation of space, or let us know any other reference that comes to your minds. As usual, we wait for your comments.


Original title: Cube Year: 1997 Runtime: 90 min. Country: Canada Director: Vicenzo Natali Writer: André Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali, Graeme Manson Soundtrack: Mark Korven Cast: Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Maurice Dean Wint


An older man named Alderson awakens and is bewildered to find himself in a cube-shaped room with a hatch in each wall, on the floor and in the ceiling. Opening one of them, he sees a passage to another cube, bathed in a different color. He enters it and, without warning, is sliced to pieces by a wire grid. In a white room, Quentin, Worth, Holloway, Rennes and Leaven meet. None know where they are, how they got there, or why. Some cubes contain traps; assuming they are triggered by motion detectors, Rennes tests each by throwing a boot in first. Leaven notices numbers inscribed in the passageways between rooms. Quentin, a policeman, recognizes “the Wren” as an escape artist renowned for getting out of jails. After “booting” one room, Rennes enters but is sprayed by acid, which eats through his face and kills him. Quentin believes each person has a reason for being there. Leaven is a mathematics student, Holloway a doctor and conspiracy theorist who thinks the “military industrial complex” is responsible, while the surly Worth declines to talk about himself. Leaven theorizes that any room marked with a prime number is a trap. They then find a mentally challenged man named Kazan, whom Holloway insists they bring along.

Quentin enters a supposedly safe room and is nearly killed by a razor-wire trap, disproving Leaven’s theory. Tensions rise, with Quentin becoming irritated by Holloway’s paranoia and liberalism, Kazan’s childlike mentality, and Worth’s reticence. He baits Worth into revealing that he designed the Cube’s outer shell. Worth insists that he knows nothing about the rest of the structure. He believes that its purpose has been lost over time and that they are only there because not using it would mean admitting the Cube was a waste. His knowledge of the outer shell’s size allows Leaven to determine that there are 26 rooms to a side, 17,576 in all. She guesses that the numbers indicate the Cartesian coordinates of the rooms. The group starts moving toward the nearest edge.

They arrive close to the edge, but find that each neighbouring room is trapped. Rather than backtrack, they decide to make their way silently through a blue colored room whose trap is sound-activated. When Kazan makes a noise, Quentin is nearly impaled by spikes, setting off another confrontation. They arrive at an edge room and find a wide, unlit gap between it and the outer shell. Holloway swings out to investigate, using a rope made from their clothes, but nearly falls when the Cube suddenly shakes; she climbs up and grabs Quentin’s arm, but he drops her to her death, telling the others that she slipped. As they rest, Quentin tries to persuade Leaven to abandon the others and come with him. He quickly becomes aggressive. When Worth intervenes, Quentin beats him and then throws him through the floor hatch. Worth laughs hysterically at what he finds — Rennes’ corpse. The thought that they have been going around in circles is demoralizing, but then Leaven realizes that the rooms move about periodically.

Leaven deduces that traps are not tagged by prime numbers but by powers of prime numbers. Kazan, it turns out, is an autistic savant who can quickly do prime factorizations and thus identify the traps. Leaven determines that the numbers indicate the positions that each room will reach as it cycles through the Cube. The room that connects to the “bridge” leading to the only door in the outer shell proves to be the one in which the group first met. The alignment they need will come in two moves. Worth ambushes Quentin and leaves him behind during one move as they hurry to the cube adjoining the bridge. When they open the hatch, they are met by a bright white light. Worth decides to stay over Leaven’s objections, saying there is nothing outside for him but “boundless human stupidity.” A bloodied Quentin appears and fatally stabs first Leaven, then Worth with a door handle, before going after Kazan. With the last of his strength, Worth grabs Quentin’s leg, holding him long enough for Quentin to be ripped apart in the passageway as the bridge shifts. Worth then dies. Kazan walks out into the bright light.


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About this author
Cite: Daniel Portilla. "Films & Architecture: "Cube"" 02 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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