Sweden, Denmark, USA, 2018, Sci-Fi/Drama
Director: Pella Kågerman, Hugo Lilja.
Cast: Emelie Garbers (Mimaroben), Bianca Cruzeiro (Isagel), Arvin Kanianan (Chefone)
Hopelessness in space
In the cinema, we are used to seeing stories where perseverance is revered. How to always fight and never lose hope even though the chances of success seem nil. This obstinacy to never give up is always preached and extolled. Now imagine a story where the main theme is hopelessness. How to deal with a seemingly inevitable destiny. This is the story presented by Aniara, a film written and directed by Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja.
In the distant future, the earth is no longer habitable due to natural disasters. People have to flee to colonies established on Mars. The Aniara is a luxurious spaceship that makes the journey to these new colonies in just three weeks. We follow Mimarobe (MR), who is in charge of Mima, artificial intelligence that allows humans to recreate idyllic images of the land they leave behind. As a mere attraction in a ship full of amenities, little is the work of the Mimarobe.
But after a week, an accident occurs to Aniara that takes it off course and sending it into space uncontrollably. Captain Chefone warns the passengers that in two years they will be able to resume their course, but MR learns that she is not like that. They will float in space indefinitely. Suddenly, Mima becomes the most visited place on the ship and the MR is responsible for maintaining the sanity and hope of all the people on board.
Adaptation from a Nobel writer
This story is based on an epic science fiction poem of the same name, written by Swedish Nobel Prize winner Harry Martinson. Aniara, in its adaptation manages to faithfully capture the existential struggle of the characters. The panic, terror, despair, and sadness that the passengers of the Aniara have to experience in their tragic situation is perfectly well represented. But it lacks a sincere emotional impact. Although we see how all these passengers have to bear all these tribulations, the story does not make the viewer participate in them. It is as if we see everything from afar, in a safe place. It is this inability of the story to emphatize the viewer, the main failure of the film.
The performances in general are very convincing. Standing out Emelie Garbers as Mimarobe and Bianca Cruzeiro as Isagel. Garbers in particular carries the weight of the film, and her character effectively fluctuates between moments of pressure and desperation to ones of sheer escapism. It is with her eyes that we see the tragedy happening around her. In addition, actors that represent the crew, have to maintain the image of order before the passengers, so they have to restrict their emotions. The passengers express the feelings of depression interspersed with those of hope. Both crew and passengers cast characters do it compellingly.
Outstanding production design
Noteworthy is that the film has a spectacular and elegant production design. The viewer can truly be assumed inside a huge and luxurious spaceship. Attention to detail is also great. Special effects are extremely convincing. Big or small, the effects fit seamlessly into the plot and are never distracting. The direction of Kagerman and Lilja is also remarkable, taking the narrative of the film in a constant rhythm.
A rather depressing experience
Another problem with Aniara is that it is extremely depressing and that in reality, not much happens. The most demanding could call it boring. The story generally only goes one way, and it is towards a dark one. And it is not the action that is lacking. No. Introducing that angle would remove the existential meanings that exalt the story. Introducing a more varied range of emotions would have made the story more attractive. More empathetical. Even so, the central premise, the impeccable production design, and the good performances make Aniara a film worth seeing. This is one of those movies in which after a few days, the devastating premise is going to hit you and you will not stop thinking about it.
Great acting and oustanding production design. Depressing story dragged by a flat, somewhat dull treatment.