A harrowingly meditative exploration of society's deterioration in the face of existential calamity, Aniara is thought-provoking, engaging, but definitely bleak, and probably not for everyone. This film was on my Hulu queue for some time, as I'm frequently hungry for quality science fiction fare. While this film is less strictly pure sci-fi, and is more accurately a psychological thought experiment, the spaceship-on-a-collision-course-with-oblivion setting combined with the exploration of how AI and virtual reality can influence the psyche, set against a "Lord of the Flies"-esque degradation of societal norms in the face of isolation and impending death.
The main character, played by Swedish actor Emelie Garbers, is called the "Mimarobe," as she is the crew member charged with running and maintaining the little-explained "MIMA" AI program, akin to Star Trek's holodeck, that accesses users memories and provides an experience of being on Earth so the ship's passengers can maintain a tentative hold on their humanity and their connection to nature. I appreciated how the filmmakers didn't overtly explain the technology behind the device, or really anything about it. It was just to be accepted by the audience as part of the self-contained world. When the device goes haywire when it is needed most, things go badly for everyone involved.
I really liked the Mimarobe. Garbers portrays her as capable, compassionate, and fun-loving, and perhaps the most "human" being on the doomed ship. I like how her sexual orientation was somewhat elastic, although she ultimately falls for a stoic female pilot, fueling much of the personal anguish and horror in the third act.
While the film isn't an easy watch and is certainly psychologically disturbing, I appreciated how nothing was gratuitous in how the film depicted the occasional eruptions of sex, violence, and psychological torture. Odd putting it that way, but it deftly manages to the examine those issues without exploiting their inherent spectacle, like other films might have. Perhaps an American production would have amped up the sex, blood, and gore. In this way I am guessing that the film's "Swedishness" protected it from wallowing within the tropes of the film's psychological horror rather than reveling in it.
In fact, that this film is Swedish also lends to the themes of isolation, alienation bleakness, and dread that it is attempting to explore. The fact that everything feels oddly foreign and detached from my biased, American viewing experience, is in my contention the direct result of the film's Swedish language and I assume, Scandinavian cultural norms, that no doubt are infused into the film's DNA.
One of my complaints about the film is that there is much that was unexplored in this narrative. In other words, there are missed opportunities inherent in the film regarding the realities of running out of food and being forced to assume a mono-diet composed of nothing but algae, a deeper exploration of religion and cults that would undoubtedly crop up, and the examination into abuse of power and overreaching of authority that the film doesn't investigate far enough. On that last point, it seemed that a lot more could have been done to demonstrate the ship's captain losing touch with his passengers and crew and embodying a Col. Kurtz-like persona.
As has been said elsewhere, this film is not uplifting in practically any way. Without providing spoilers, there is a scene towards the end that is just soul-crushing that is acted to perfection by the film's lead. That said, the final shot of the film is oddly optimistic in an entire unexpected way.
Regarding the production design, I liked the stark Euro-aesthetic of the piece and really enjoyed the design of the ship itself. Clearly this film didn't have the benefit of a $100 million budget but in my estimation got the most out of its visual effects and minimalist design. As I stated earlier, this film isn't for everybody, but in my estimation the experience of viewing it is very much worth the time and it still haunts my consciousness as I write these words. Recommend.
"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
I guess now I know where the Duffer brothers got their inspiration for "Stranger Things."
Interesting production design. Jarring transitions. Occasionally transcendent musical score. Black goo. A master class in dehumanization Pointless killing. Closeups of insects. A mute protagonist. Green eyeballs. Unbelievably odd tonal jump in the third act. Most underwhelming showdown with a villain ever put to film. Comically creepy.
What kind of car does Nyle drive?
Why the leather?
"Green Room" is a bleak, gory, nihilistic, and cynical exercise that does nothing to elevate the slasher/thriller genre. I was amazed by Jeremy Saulnier's previous film, "Blue Ruin," which took the tropes of the revenge thriller and turned everything on its head, delivering a tour de force work of artistry supported by amazingly authentic performances, that was fully aware of the expectations of the genre while simultaneously elevating the affair to something greater than the sum of its parts.
Unfortunately I can't say anything close to the same about "Green Room." For starters, none of the protagonists are remotely engaging or relatable. The punk band mates stuck in the neo-Nazi stronghold are bunch of entitled posers, demonstrated in a little scene at the beginning of the film in which they are asked to name their favorite "desert island band" by a radio host interviewing them. Later it's revealed that they were merely posturing in order to look cool for the interviewer and his audience when their real desert island choices were revealed in an interesting call-back scene. Looks like they're not so punk-rock after all. When push comes to shove, they're a bunch of whiny little punks (but not the cool kind of "punks" they're pretending to be). The fact that when under duress they all start clamoring for the cops to come save them, which doesn't fit the punk-rock, anti-establishment, ethos they attempt to project, is a demonstration that the filmmaker has nothing but disdain for the film's "heroes."
Further, the fact that these schmucks performed for the Nazis in the first place tells you everything you need to know about their moral compass. What would have been interesting would have been if the true depths of their predicament and the fact that they were playing for neo-Nazis were slowly revealed over time. If the audience knew something evil were taking place but that realization were not immediately known to the band, there would have been an escalating feeling of dread and enormous rising tension. Instead, the band shows up and just plays for the skinheads, attempting to entertain them. They kinda got what they deserved in my book.
When "Blue Ruin" star Macon Blair shows up in the Nazi hangout as one of Patrick Stewart lieutenants, I nearly released a sigh of relief, as he was one of the few characters who seemed to portray any gravitas, plus the affection I had for him in that previous role. Captain Picard, on the other hand, was underused in the sense that the film presented an opportunity for him to take on a truly menacing and horrifying persona, but instead, he came across as weary and annoyed as opposed to calculating and terrifying. Plus I could barely understand anything he mumbled for much of the film.
Finally there are some elements of the film that I found to be somewhat confusing from a logistical standpoint. I can't for the life of me understand why, when the punk-rockers were initially locked in the green room, did Captain Picard and Macon Blair allow them to take the gun from the skinhead who had them trapped inside. Seems kind of dumb to give up a weapon like that, especially when they were just a bunch of kids. They could have easily of tricked them into coming out, pretending to the be the police or something. Later, when Picard starts rallying the "red laces," his skinhead hit squad, they are oddly reserved in their use of force to take down the punk ass kids. They come in one by one, sporadically using guns, machetes, and attack dogs in an uncoordinated way. Just makes old Jean Luc look incompetent. Seems like he could have easily smoked them out much sooner but I suppose the filmmaker himself was trapped in attempting to confine the schmucky kids while still giving them some kind of glimmer of hope that they could thwart the bad guys and escape.
One more thing - there's a lot of love out there for Amogen Poots, who plays the "neo-Nazi with a heart of gold" that defects to the light side when her friend gets a jackknife inserted into her temple by some mean looking bruiser named Werm. She helps the kids attempt to escape, but the whole time I'm thinking, she was hanging out with neo-Nazis and participating in their reindeer games up to the point in the film in which Werm aerated her friend. She was cool with these scumbags until her friend died. You are a scumbag if you knowingly hang out with neo-Nazis in case that's not obvious. Just because her friend got shivved doesn't make her someone to be trusted! And by the way, why did our second-favorite starship captain send Werm away? Shouldn't he have sent him in first to eat those brats for lunch?
Anyhow, I can't get so worked up about a bad movie. The film is not for the squeamish and no doubt delivers in the blood and guts department, however unfortunately not in the service of a story I cared about. Huge disappointment given the esteem I held for filmmaker Saulnier following "Blue Ruin." I guess if you have a penchant for neo-Nazi slasher films, have at it. Otherwise, avoid this film like these kids should have done when they rolled up on the skinhead clubhouse in the first place!
I was looking forward to this, but man was this is an unwatchable mess. I find it shocking how just about every reviewer acknowledges that it is "bloated and messy" and yet gives it four stars. A huge aspect of quality filmmaking is discipline and economy. Long movies should use their length to develop character, not to linger on boring moments or to take the audience down rabbit holes leading nowhere.
The music and score is God-awful and inappropriate to the action on the screen, seeming more like built-in musical cues that came pre-loaded with Spike's editing software, which he just dropped in. The only scene I enjoyed was at the beginning when the guys were dancing in the bar, demonstrating the contrast between the Vietnam they fought and suffered in and the Vietnam that exists today.
The flashbacks are literally a joke, and I say that acknowledging the word "literally" has no meaning anymore. I'm saying the lack of concern for de-aging the characters in some way (and not necessarily digitally, casting younger actors can be done with astonishing effect - see "Godfather Part 2") is something you would expect in a goofy parody movie. Here, it's just lazy and silly and I can't for the life of me understand how other reviews are just excusing that.
Cinematography here just sucks. The action sequences and flashbacks look and feel like a video game with no urgency or realism. Also, as a veteran my eyes rolled when everybody fired their M-16's on full auto the whole time and rarely changed magazines.
This film looks rushed and opportunistic given the political social climate out there. I'm sure this will win awards given the context in our world, but in my opinion undeservedly so. Total waste of time.
Wow. What a ride. What a mind-f***. What a shocking and horrifying ending. From the minimalist score, often comprised of nothing more than a thundering drum beat, to its eerie sound design, to the film's bleak and dreamlike cinematography, to its expertly visceral use of visual effects, this is an experience like no other presented by an auteur at the height of his powers.
This 2013 work is only his second English-language film but it's no wonder Villeneuve has elevated his stature to one of cinema's most able and visionary talents working today (I'm counting the days until his vision of "Dune" is finally released). This film demonstrates his ability to create a unique tone in a strangely foreign yet contemporary world on an obviously minimal budget with a cast of 6 or 7 speaking parts. Everybody brings their a-game in the acting department, with Gyllenhaal the obvious stand-out, as he is tasked with playing two very different roles with such specificity, dread, meekness, and viciousness that is a marvel to behold.
This film is surreal, mesmerizing, and hallucinatory, and is probably not for everybody. It doesn't spoon-feed its narrative or thematic meaning to the audience, but instead meets the viewer at a subconscious level, lingering in the mind and the body for many hours and days after viewing. I say it lingers in the body as some of the imagery has a gut-wrenching quality to it that visibly shook me during several sequences, the images seemingly penetrating my very soul.
I mentioned the acting earlier but must say that the casting was perfect on every level. The women playing the wife and and lover felt authentic and captivating. Their confusion and dissonance with Gyllenhaal, matched with their simultaneous odd attachment to him is haunting and compelling. Also - I loved the inclusion of Isabella Rossellini as his mother. There is a disquieting gravitas to her rather brief presence in the film that carries much of the emotional baggage of her past performances from other films, which is reflected in the cinephillic decor covering the walls of her home, and difficult for the viewer to ignore.
Another note I want to make that I haven't seen mentioned in other reviews is that while this film is obviously an entry in the "Doppelganger" motif, there is a detail revealed that contains a "Doppelganger within a Doppelganger" concept that has left my head spinning a bit as I know that with a filmmaker like Villeneuve, nothing is unintentional. The actor who has the same face as the history teacher (both played by Gyllenhaal) is first introduced as "Daniel Saint Claire," but it is later revealed that this is only a stage name and that his real name is "Anthony Claire." Not sure the meaning of that fact but I do know that there is an esoteric quality of twins that has appeared throughout art, philosophy, and history for millennia. The notion that the actor is a "twin of a twin" seems notable in its implication of a spiraling, permutating, and endlessly repeating reality that the teacher Gyllenhaal alludes to during one of his lectures when he says: "this is a pattern that repeats itself through history," and later, when he says: "It was Hegel who said that all the greatest world events happen twice. And then, Karl Marx added, the first time it was a tragedy and the second time it was a farce."
What is also remarkable about this film is it's running time. While it is an atmospheric slow-burn, it is starkly economical and efficient. Such a joy sometimes to not have to sit through 2+ hours of celluloid to get the heart of the story the filmmaker is trying to tell. For lovers of film and budding directors, this movie is a must-see. Probably not a date-night watch but a compelling psychological drama that is as rare as it is well-crafted. Highly recommend!