This was simply an outstanding film. Sometimes you see a film and can tell immediately that it is just going to be solid, and that’s how I felt within the first few minutes. The film-quality is extremely high for the early 70s, and the camera is totally dynamic throughout the picture. There is rarely a static shot: it is always panning, or following a character, or slowly zooming in, or gently spinning. This perfectly offsets the very deliberate (i.e. slow) pacing of the movie. At 2.45, it is a very long film for any of you impatient viewers, but worthwhile if you can stretch your attention span for a little bit.
For anybody not up on the Clooney/Soderbergh remake several years ago (which was not nearly as good as the original), a brief recap: psychologist Kris Kelvin is sent to a remote space station that is observing a strange new planet. Upon arrival, he finds that out of the three cosmonauts stationed there, one has committed suicide and the other two appear to be in various stages of insanity. Furthermore, there are extra people on the station, and he doesn’t know where they’ve come from. After his first night’s sleep, he wakes up next to his breathing wife, who had killed herself years before. You don’t need to know anything else, except that it’s awesome.
The acting was outstanding. I love it when actors look like real people and not like Hollywood stars. They are so much more believable. Granted, I’ve never seen any of these actors in other films so I have no idea how well they actually “acted,” but for me they totally inhabited their characters, which is the whole point of acting. Again, this could simply have been due to my ignorance.
The story and underlying moral/philosophical questions were immensely enjoyable. Can artificial lifeforms that behave more and more like humans actually become human? If you had the chance to live in your wildest dream, would you? At what point does this fantasy become reality, if that’s all you’ve experienced for days, months, or even years? Does it follow that reality is subjective? These are all very interesting questions to ponder, though perhaps not relevant to everyday life. One of the characters in the film even warns that people can only be happy by not thinking of such things. I still consider myself happy in general, and I love thinking about those things.
For any fans of this film that are interested in even more of a mindfuck, I recommend Tarkovsky´s “Stalker,” a science fiction story about a guide (The Stalker) who takes brave tourists into the Zone, a mysterious area that can supposedly grant your innermost desire.
17 March 2010