Cold Souls

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Cold Souls
Cold souls poster.jpg
Promotional film poster
Directed bySophie Barthes
Produced byDan Carey
Elizabeth Giamatti
Paul Mezey
Andrij Parekh
Jeremy Kipp Walker
Written bySophie Barthes
StarringPaul Giamatti
Emily Watson
David Strathairn
Music byDickon Hinchliffe
CinematographyAndrij Parekh
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Distributed bySamuel Goldwyn Films
Release date
  • August 7, 2009 (2009-08-07)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish, Russian
Box office$1,023,416[1]

Cold Souls is a 2009 comedy-drama film written and directed by Sophie Barthes. The film features Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, and David Strathairn. Giamatti stars as a fictionalised version of himself, an anxious, overwhelmed actor who decides to enlist the service of a company to deep freeze his soul. Complications ensue when his soul gets lost in a soul trafficking scheme which has taken his soul to St. Petersburg. The film then follows Giamatti desperately trying to recover his soul.


Paul Giamatti is an actor who becomes so impassioned with the characters and roles that he plays that he has trouble disassociating himself from the character after the scene is done. As a result, his mind and spirit are a tangled mass of emotions that he seems to have trouble separating from his own feelings. As he struggles to play Uncle Vanya, he reads an article in The New Yorker regarding "Soul Storage," a procedural clinic that physically removes one's soul from his body.

While hesitant at first to go through with such a procedure, being unsure how it would affect him, Paul decides to go ahead. On visiting the clinic he discovers that most souls come out as gray matter or clouds. He decides to go ahead, declining the offer to look at his soul as it happens. He is distressed to discover that his soul comes out looking just like a chickpea. He has it stored in the clinic and returns to his life with 5 percent of his soul remaining. However, his life begins to fall apart; he has trouble associating with or making love to his wife Claire. Lacking in emotional intelligence, he says insensitive things, such as telling a friend to just "pull the plug" on her comatose mother, and his acting for the Chekhov play lacks believability. Not wanting his soul back just yet, he instead obtains the soul of what he is told is a Russian poet, whose memories entice him to be curious about her and her life as well as obtain a curiosity of his own. This Russian soul allows him to play Uncle Vanya excellently, but the experience overwhelms him and he decides to get his own soul back.

Paul's world is turned upside down when Nina, a Russian soul mule who transports people's souls to and from Russia, steals Paul's soul for the wife of her boss at the Russian soul-storage operation, who aspires to be an actress. She receives Paul's soul, believing it to be the soul of Al Pacino. Her acting and happiness improve. Nina, the mule who carried Paul's soul and has become curious about him, eventually reveals the whereabouts of his soul, helping him to get it back. As the pair investigate the soul of Olga the poet, which he had 'rented' during this period, they learn that she committed suicide after not being able to get it back after selling it. Paul and Nina get his soul back, and after looking into it through the use of special goggles to reassociate himself to it, he returns to New York a happier man. Nina's soul is found, but Paul is told that it is unrecoverable due to the residues of souls that she has carried.



Director Sophie Barthes has stated that she came up with the idea from the film when she had a dream in which she found herself one of several patients at a futuristic doctor's office.[2] According to Barthes, the dream even included Woody Allen and all the patients had a box that an office assistant explained was carrying their extracted souls.[2] Once that was explained to the patients, they began to look in the boxes, but Barthes said she woke up before seeing her own soul.[2] However, she did see the spiritual contents of Woody Allen's box and Barthes says that moment became the inspiration for the film and the Paul Giamatti character.[2]

When Sophie approached Giamatti at the Nantucket Film Festival and pitched him on the film idea, he was ready to sign up on the spot.[3]

The film was shot in New York City, United States and Saint Petersburg, Russia.[4]


The film has received fairly positive reviews from critics. Based on 122 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 74% of critics gave Cold Souls a positive review. Negative reviews focused on the film's similarity to Charlie Kaufman's 1999 film Being John Malkovich, as well as its similarity to Kaufman's topical themes and directorial style.[5]


  1. ^ "Cold Souls (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Hill, Jon (August 9, 2009). "Sophie Barthes, Paul Giamatti Talk Cold Souls at BAM". Gothamist. Archived from the original on August 14, 2009. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
  3. ^ "August 7, 2009". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Episode 95. August 7, 2009.
  4. ^ "Cold Souls(2009)". IMDb. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
  5. ^ "Cold Souls (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 2, 2009.

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