My most recent favorite movie brings forth an example that doesn’t embrace anything remotely centered on monsters or lightsaber battles.
These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 cantos (one of the sections into which certain long poems are divided,) provides a satisfying narrative. This tale of a spaceship stuck wandering the cosmos after being forced off course by rogue space debris,
is both impressive in its scope and intimate in its revealing portrait of human nature under long-term duress
Though inevitably destined to frustrate fans who think they want something different but still require conventional action thrills, Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja’s first feature should intrigue and reward those inclined toward adult drama who wouldn’t normally expect such tropes from a sci-fi movie.
“Say goodbye to Earth,” someone instructs as people look out the window on Aniara, a transport craft that resembles a floating cruise ship, complete with restaurants, shopping malls, arcades and a gym.
The crew and passengers are headed to Mars, where life will continue after the three-week space journey to a new home.
What happens in “Aniara,” is not unlike, well, “Gilligan’s Island.”
When the ship veers off course, everyone is trapped for an indeterminant period of time.
In those ensuing years —and they are years — and MORE years and…Well, need I write more?
Despite there being hopes for rescue, when none is forthcoming, society breaks down.
Co-written and directed by Pella Kågerman
and Hugo Lilja and based on the epic poem by Harry Martinson, “Aniara” considers philosophical themes of life, death and birth, as well as love and sex, anxiety and despair.
The main character, Mimaroben (Emelie Jonsson), manages Mima Hall,
which can best be described as an “escape room” — but not in the sense that phrase is used today. At Mima Hall, passengers take off their shoes, lie down and put their heads on a foam pillow to experience memories of Earth.
Mimaroben likes to reflect on nature and eating raspberries. Others envision scenes from their lives.
The room is initially not very popular until Aniara goes off course; suddenly, everyone wants to escape their present reality and recall a happier past. Mimaroben cannot handle the overwhelming demand.
One of the visitors to Mima Hall is Isagel (Bianca Cruzeiro), a comely pilot to whom Mimaroben is attracted. She can hardly suppress her lust when she spies on and admires Isagel in Mima Hall or in a pool, where they meet one night when they both can’t sleep.
The women’s romance shifts into high gear when they are reassigned jobs and end up rooming together. Isagel and Mimaroben start to dance; they soon share a shower and a kiss and then have sex.
Things get a little complicated as the years pass and they participate in a “kind of” orgy arranged by a “kind of” cult. While the film shrewdly offers only a title card about this secret society, as a result of the encounter, Isagel becomes pregnant.
“Aniara” uses the birth of Isagel’s child, as well as the rescue mission that is availed after years of floundering, as a way of commenting on the preciousness of life in the sarcophagus that is the transport ship.
The film asks — but deliberately does not answer much larger questions, such as how do we provide for future generations, and contemplates immediate concerns about managing our food, education, and our pleasure in a society that is decaying, an obvious but critical allegory for life on Earth.
While compelling, the film doesn’t generate much emotion but, rather lessons for humanity. Scenes where Mimaroben actively tries to save Mima Hall from being destroyed by overuse, or the fear and anxiety of what’s to be impending death.
Likewise, while it is pleasing that the intimate relationship between Isagel and Mimaroben is accepted and not condemned, the bond between the women and their child feels underdeveloped. Never-More-So, than is their communication, where discourse seems more one-sided on Mimaroben’s part. This is likely due to Isagel’s deteriorating mental state of mind the longer they are Lost In Space, only to climax in a sad revelation for Mimaroen as she hurries back to her and Isagel’s living quarters only to discover that Isagel has murdered their child and committed suicide.
The film’s characters are primarily symbols and ciphers. Mimaroben’s first roommate (Anneli Martini), a wise, older woman known as The Astronomer, is as cold and unfeeling as the spaceship’s design.
Nonetheless, the film’s visuals are impressive, particularly since “Aniara” was filmed with a relatively low budget. The special effects are stunning, from birds disintegrating in the sky, to the design of the spacecraft and the futuristic images that populate various screens in Mima Hall and elsewhere.
Emellie Garber (nee Jonsson)is quite sympathetic as Mimaroben, and she has a number of impassioned scenes including a piercing meltdown. Her character serves as a guide for viewers to follow the action.
Bianca Cruzeiro is utterly enigmatic as the alluring but emotionally distant Isagel, a woman who mostly represses her emotions. She becomes more intriguing once she becomes a mother, but Cruzeiro’s character Isagel is hampered by a script that isn’t fleshed out.
The source material was originally written in response to Hiroshima and the Cold War, “Aniara” has renewed relevance, since the notion of humanity being forced to flee an environmentally devastated Earth has become a future scenario that is scientifically plausible, even if not realistic.
by Harry Martinson
|Produced by||Annika Rogell|
|Music by||Alexander Berg|
|Distributed by||SF Studios (Sweden)|