ANIARA / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PELLA KAGERMAN, HUGO LILJA / STARRING: EMELIE JONSSON, BIANCA CRUZEIRO, ARVIN KANANIAN / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 30TH
As esoteric movie pitches go, Aniara deserves some sort of medal. This bit of low-budget emo Swedish sci-fi is based on Nobel laureate Harry Martinson’s 1956 poem of the same name. It’s an interesting premise for a story. Earth is dying, and mankind is in the process of fleeing to Mars to ensure its own survival.
The poem is a hypnotically-paced work that explores the nature of humanity’s place in the cosmos and the tragedy caused when we become displaced from purpose. The movie struggles with the same sort of pacing, yet exudes its own profound sadness. Closer to Silent Running than Solaris in terms of mood, it is nevertheless an engaging movie.
As the feature opens, humanity’s remarkable exodus is framed as everyday and routine. There have been many trips to Mars, it seems, with the ship’s crew talking about the journey in the way one would talk about a cruise or long-haul flight. The film marries superb CGI shots of the space ship with interior shots of what appears to be a low-budget hotel. The interior has been filmed in a low-lit way, partially to hide the reality of the location but also to make it feel lived in and real.
Everything appears routine until a piece of space debris causes an incident with the ship’s engines that knocks the vessel off course. The passengers and crew of Aniara are stranded in the void - a two-week trip turning into something that may take years, if ever. The occupants of the ship can survive indefinitely, if not happily, and this sets the mood.
The movie follows the point of view of the Mimaroben or MR, played by Emelie Jonsson. This is her title rather than her name, which we never learn. She is responsible for the MIMA, a machine that causes its user to hallucinate pleasant memories of a green and healthy Earth. Treated as an irrelevant amusement at the start of the story, it becomes a vital part of this castaway society and the focus of much pathos and tragedy.
MR is a fascinating every-person style character, adapting to the various rigours of the isolated life forced upon her in a believable way. Emelie’s performance is just understated enough to draw the viewer in, her permanently exhausted stance feeling all too believable. Ultimately this is a story about human suffering and loneliness, and the way we can make each other miserable.
Aniara suffers mostly from its low budget and slow pacing; it’s a bit long and bit too melancholic for most tastes, but it is a great bit of sci-fi. Go see it before Hollywood remakes it and misses the point.