THE FINAL LAND / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MARCEL BARION / CAST: TORBEN FÖLLMER, MILAN PEŠL / RELEASE DATE: TBC
German indie sci-fi Das Letzie Land (The Final Land) is a claustrophobic two-hander set aboard a cramped and dilapidated space craft on which a pair of ill-matched crew members (an escaped prison inmate and a guard sent to capture him) battle to save the ship and themselves from disaster and somehow navigate their way to a new life.
From the moment the salvaged semi-wreck takes off, it’s a life-and-death struggle to keep the thing flying as the duo try to master the controls and bring systems back online. Forced to rely on each other’s talents, trust on board still remains in very short supply.
With almost all of the film set aboard the beaten-up vessel, The Final Land would deserve plaudits for its design and cinematography alone. Channelling the sensibilities of films as diverse as Dark Star, Alien and Delicatessen, this imaginative piece of low-budget European cinema makes great play of a ship that’s almost entirely built of vents, ducts, pipes, shafts, dimly-lit display panels, grimy keypads and failing tech. Beautifully lit and shot, the intensity of these strangers’ shared predicament feels up close and palpable.
As the fellow travellers are drawn into ever sharper conflict, escapee Adem attempts to uncover the backstory of the vessel’s previous crew and unearth the clues that might get them direction, while prison guard Novak becomes increasingly drawn to the lure of a hypnotic homing signal. Frequently framed in close-up, the committed performances of cast members Torben Föllmer and Milan Pešl are suitably intense. As Adem grows ever more concerned about the behaviour of his obsessive ship mate, some kind of explosive showdown seems inevitable.
Writer-director Baron’s first feature (which began life as the one-liner “two or three emaciated people in a poky spaceship cockpit”) is impressively self-assured and strong on sweaty, grimy atmospherics. The set design is top-notch, and the soundscape, score, model work and practical effects all vastly exceed the expectations of a minimalist crowdsourced budget.
It’s only in the final act that the pace slows sharply, as the mood becomes unexpectedly ethereal, dissipating much of the tension that the previous eighty minutes had ratcheted up so effectively. But this remains a striking directorial genre debut, a new entry in the “failing spaceship” genre that’s unexpected, unpredictable and superbly rendered on screen.