Christmas on Mars
directed by Wayne Coyne, Bradley Beesley, George Salisbury
written by Wayne Coyne
starring Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, Steve Burns, Fred Arminsen, Scott Booker, Adam Goldberg, Michael Ivins, Michelle Martin-Coyne, Jimmy Pike, Kliph Scurlock
Alright, this is obviously not meant to be a standard issue cinematic bedbug. It isn?t space, it isn?t even the spaces between words that make up their own coherent language. Indeed, it?s nearly impossible to say exactly what the hell is going on here but it certainly is stimulating to put it mildly.
The brainchild of Oklahoma?s The Flaming Lips and seven years in the making, this is a jarring, mesmeric, lunatic ride into the outer recesses of cosmic mind. As it goes it tells the story of a space station on Mars where everything seems to be breaking down. These men and one woman are facing the very real prospect that it?s all going to end and very soon. One of them, Major Syrtis (Drozd) has started to hallucinate which puts a crimp in his simple plan to put together a Christmas pageant for his fellow space travelers. Unfortunately, his Santa goes mad and promptly offs himself leaving him with the dire task of finding someone to take his place. Meanwhile an odd Martian like creature has wandered into the story and he seems mostly inquisitive and uncommunicative. Soon, Syrtis is leading him off and primping him to become the new Santa.
So, the special effects in this thing are quite astounding. Although there isn?t a clear demonstration of the relationships between buildings so we never really know where we are, the look of the film holds our interests throughout. Mostly it?s a group of men fiddling with knobs and wires and looking off forlornly into the distance. There is a bit of dialog about how mankind was never meant to conquer space which suggests a lamentation over the mission that has left these soldiers of the depths to float about aimlessly. The major plot point here however is the birth of a child which is presented as a major event on Mars since it is to be the first one of its kind. The mother (Martin-Coyne) sits around sexily in her underwear and feeds the fetus from a nifty device coming out of her stomach. Then she beams wildly and the film goes back to show the terminal essence of the crew?s psychological state.
The music is really something to hear in this film. It?s mostly low-fi ambient or freakout noise and/or industrial that throbs for the duration of the picture. Some of it is exceedingly jarring and truly hard around the edges. Distortion of visuals and aural elements add to the wacked out aesthetics that make up so much of the film?s content. This isn?t supposed to be a straightforward narrative with easy plot developments and characters who do decidedly predictable things. It?s not supposed to make sense in the traditional manner and in fact, it doesn?t whatsoever. Instead it leaves the impression of the terror of vastness and seeming impossibility. The film suggests that societal walls and limitations prevent most of the population from completely losing their minds. In space there are no such guardrails and the result can be an absolute break with reality. Sytris experiences grave doubt and by looking to deeply into the void, his synapses have snapped and he begins to live in a decidedly alternative universe. He hallucinates a strange being holding a dead baby and it troubles him greatly. He goes to the psychologist (Goldberg) and learns of other hallucinations including a marching band with rather intimate body parts for heads.
The film feel like a strange new drug and it stays with a person long after the final credit has rolled. The crisp black and white is occasionally punctuated with vibrant color that signifies that something extraordinarily significant is being displayed. But it is all about the baby and whether or not it will be born at all. There are several images which portent a grisly end and the entire film seems to present a giddy hope for the new arrival. For all of the space station maintenance that is taking place, there is truly only the belief that the baby will be born and a new spirit of possibility will be ushered in. This is what these people actually need more than anything. They need to believe in something that means something on a colossal scale, something that resonates throughout space and crosses all boundaries of time as well. This baby is exceedingly important for everyone involved and everything is subservient to the urgency with which this pregnancy is monitored.
Some of the astronauts handle their dilemma by shutting down their emotions. Others, sing Christmas carols (Armisen) to remind themselves that Christmas is a real thing that they can rely on to remind themselves of the normalcy of life as it is lived in many parts of the globe. Christmas becomes a great symbol which means hope, continuance, prosperity, and goodwill. It becomes a specter that haunts every facet of this film and is directly tied in with the birth of the child. Is this supposed to be like Jesus considering how he apparently was born from a virgin birth and the baby in this film is hatched outside of the womb entirely? Perhaps there is a link but perhaps not. What matters is that the child is seen as a symbol in and of itself. It means something much grander than its mere existence. It has been imbued with truth, light, and every other elevated sentiment that mankind attaches to things that take on religious significance.
Overall, this film capsizes expectations and thrills the senses with a diabolical potion of strange and unearthly delights. It?s cosmic in scope and asks questions about the nature of existence, mankind?s relationship to space, and the fears and expectations which are transferred to the potentiality of nothingness, the dead silence of eternal space. It?s a poem about madness and the tenuous grip most of us have on our own sanity. Perhaps it?s none of these and merely a nice collection of pretty pictures and loud, visceral sound notes that probably scare a lot of people who have never become intricate with such matters.