If you prefer science fiction to be grim, perhaps Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja’s Aniara will be your “thing”. Although I can’t comment on the film’s faithfulness to its source material (Harry Martinson’s Nobel prize winning poem of the same name), Aniara is very good in terms of riveting near-future sci-fi, but it’s definitely for a specific crowd.
When Earth is deemed as an inhabitable wasteland, the remaining population is transported in waves to outer space to board a high-end ship, named Aniara, that will take them to their new home, Mars. During another typical travel to Mars, incoming debris alters Aniara’s original path and sends the ship adrift. The crew must find a gravitational pull that will aim the ship back on its original route. But despite hope from Aniara’s fearless leader, the space-age vessel starts to unravel.
As time drifts along with the ship, helplessness and delusional behaviour sets in; which includes cold sweats from movie goers. Writers/directors Kågerman and Lilja pull off an impressive feat by establishing the boundless limits of the story’s inevitable dread. And because Aniara is a film that suffocates and smothers its audiences from any sort of stimulation, viewers feel like they’re just as deprived as Aniara’s passengers. It’s alarmingly effective but, at the same time, it’s an imperfect tactic that has difficulty adjusting to sudden thematic turns in the narrative; such as when characters are facing different existential conundrums.
There are glimmers of hope as some guests find new relationships while in their perpetual state of danger but, overall, Aniara is a reality check on life’s more insignificant, uncontrollable aspects. Some movie goers will appreciate how blunt the film is, but others may find themselves in a deep and depressing funk by the end credits. I float somewhere in the middle of these two experiences.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie