Michael Chantiri’s review published on Letterboxd:
Theatrical Cut: world ends in fast motion.
Cannes Cut: world ends in slow motion.
What both these cuts share in common is texture but more specifically how that texture informs our sensors. In the theatrical everything moves at a break neck pace, racing to the finish line. We are bombarded with an overwhelming abundance of information yet we feel core of this film sprituallly. Through the augmentation of its story through non literal means we pick up the weight of the story. In the Cannes cut it has this same philosophy but it filters it through a slower more meditative lens. It still allows us to get lost in the feeling of confusion but it does it through a slower haze, giving us more time to reflect on ourselves. Like the characters we are drugged by Fluid Karma, we are taken to their level, feeling the weight of every single action as it is rooted into our consciousness.
The climax hits especially hard with this cut, not only do we have the Memory Gospel dance but the added scene of Pinziki and Smallhouse embracing each other shows that through removing political motivations, animosity and cynicism we are all still innately human guided by love and compassion. With these two cuts we get two different ways of communicating the same idea. If you ask me which cut is better I would say the theatrical because it betrays the feeling of an information overload more audaciously and frenetically. Whichever one you watch you'll still get the spirit of the film, one that is extremely vivid and transcendent no matter how many times I experience it. I don't think anything could ever top this as my favourite piece of media, I will never take for granted that this film exists.
The friendly fire concept in the film is something that I didn't feel the resonance until now, Taverner and Abilenes journey throughout the film is forgiving each other spirtually for what they did to each other under the influence of Fluid Karma. That final line is the actual forgiveness, it's like the soul of Abilene possessed one of the identical souls and said one last goodbye before the world ended. They both have gone above a system that put them into a guilty state. Now finally free to be humans, absolved from military and government control.
The final resolve says that to truly be human we have to let go of our world and ascend into a state of collective consciousness (an idea that End of Evangelion touched on). The events of the film are secondary to the freedom the characters experience at the end, that unifying moment that makes us submit to the feeling and makes us leave behind the past. The fact this is weaved into the film itself is one of the most liberating things, showing us that story's can be directly about our feelings instead of literal story beats.
The story beats are there so it can lead us to where we end up, that's what Kelly wants us to take away from this and godammit I think that's just such a beautiful thing.