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A hotshot young scientist trying to achieve immortality for all humanity travels to the Netherlands to work with a hotshot older scientist who hangs himself soon after a conference. He delves into elder researcher's life and discovers that he was on the verge of a treatment that would reverse aging... and that he was also into bondage and experimenting on the residents of a nursing home who all died. He hooks up with the dead scientist's kinky mistress as well as a Swiss pharmaceutical company rep who wants the secret so that he can live forever. They all team up to slowly talk the viewer to death over an hour and a half.
Lifespan is, in large part, an intelligent film that asks probing questions on the nature of scientific inquiry and morality. Unfortunately, it doesn't do it well. The acting is rather wooden, particularly when it comes to lead actor Hiram Keller. Much of the action takes place inside of his head; he wrestles with the actions of those around him and his own ideas, and this struggle is delivered in the form of narration. Keller's Dr. Land talks and talks and talks while the on-screen action moves at a snail's pace. Klaus Kinski bugs his eyes out a lot and dons a devil's mask in a mild sex scene with the ice cold mistress, Anna (Tina Aumont). There's a lot of plodding intellectualizing here but also a complete lack of passion.
"Lifespan" is left an unsatisfying and deservedly forgotten film. It was director Sandy Whitelaw's first film, which shows, but it was notably one of only three films he ever helmed. If you can make it through "Lifespan" without dozing off, you'll understand why. It defies genres; this isn't strictly science fiction or drama, and it certainly isn't horror. It's something that fell through the cracks, and is probably best left there.
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