This review, from Garry P. Dalrymple’s AZAPA fanzine Transcendental Basenji Sermons and Enlightenment, appears with permission. More TBS&E at <http://efanzines.com>
★ Directed by Johan Lurf, Astronomy / SF / Fantasy, © 2018, An Austrian made movie, seen as a preview movie of the 2018 Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival, on the morning of Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at the Event Cinema, George Street Sydney.
Before there was the Sky walker clan, Anikin, Luke and Leia, there was the night Sky, a dark velvet canvas upon which all cultures have felt free to embroidered with the story threads of their culture, aspiring to create a meaningful tapestry reflecting their values and issues, as writ large as by the hand of their Gods and mythological heroes? How then to relate a review of this movie for you. Do you see it through the imaginative and interpretive eyes of the SF fan, through the keener and more exacting eyes of an amateur Astronomer, or through the fact and fancy sifting senses of the historian, as this movie is at times is likely to provoke strong responses from each of these audiences?
The movie is a collage of night sky images assembled from an enormous number of short extracts from films drawn from over 100 years of movie making. Their only common feature is that they are representations of the sky and some astronomical features. Most of these images are from Science Fictional films, but many are not. There is not a character or a space ship to be seen throughout the film’s 90 minutes duration. Partway through the film I said to myself ‘I’d love to see the stack of copyright permission approvals they must have collected for all this’ From an Astronomy perspective, it was an eye opener to see the same miss representations of the night sky and the movements of Astronomical objects instituted and repeated over generations, as traditional representations / story telling tropes, even when more accurate imagery were freely available and audiences more knowledgeable (round star images, stellar objects travelling at multiples of light speed, fixed background, moving intermediate field objects to infer space ship travel etc. Familiar astronomical friends, The Plieades, the Veil Nebular, Orion, the Triffid Nebula, and variations on the Andromeda spiral nebula, were all encountered a few times. Something I did notice was the Northern Hemispheric / Eurocentric view of the sky presented, Constellations and pseudo constellations presented, interrupted by the very occasional representation of stars set in the smaller Asian style asterisms, similar to how Chinese / Japanese characters appear versus European words made up of a larger number of individual characters.
The avid SF viewer will have many moments of acute recognition, usually as brief snippets of theme music reminds you of familiar Movies and TV series. Of the scattering of words spoken during the movie, the Germans seemed to be explaining the Universe, technically, the Russians were addressing melancholic thoughts to the universe and for the English speakers, well I must admit that at one point I drifted off to dreams about making love under the stars in a transparent plastic love bubble tent, the idea must have been suggested by something in the movie. What the Japanese and other languages were saying, is anyone’s guess, thoughts addressed to the night sky, standing in for the Ghods of many circumstances? It is enough to say that your impressions of this movie will be influenced by the languages you are familiar with.
After the film, the extensive credits rolled, a long list of source movies rolled across the screen, revealing that German, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and Indian language films, in addition to the English language ones, had all been sampled, and the list of acknowledged volunteers / collaborators and talent spotters also reflected this diversity. I also discovered that the film’s constituent clips had been intentionally edited to avoid any appearance of non-sky focussed frames, resulting in at times jerky and staccato passages of recognisable theme music. So, it was quite an experience.
Comment and Conclusion – What is the point of holding a Science Fiction Movie Festival these days? If a movie is good Science Fiction its season at the local Vulgardrome Cinema Complex will be short and brutal, its point lost on non-genre conversant reviewers, or if it is a CGI rich, plot free undemanding entertainment designed for school holiday crowds, then it will be of Free-to-Air TV soon enough, and in any case, all us clever kids would have already seen it bought it or pirated it off the internet months ago? Well this film was a presentation that demonstrates the need for Film Festival screenings, on a wide screen to a select and sensitive audience. Largely constructed of scenes intended for the big screen, it would be very much less of an experience if viewed through a scanner darkly via a small screen. It is a movie that invites you to imagine your own plot or deeper meanings based on what you think you might have seen. As an Amateur Astronomer / Historian, it will at times make you cringe/twitch to see the consecutive repetition of It-just-doesn’t-work-that-way Astronomical scenes, which have transitioned from state of the art to movie making shorthand. Methinks there is room here for a documentary, showing how the sky was depicted in popular movie culture, alongside the actual Astronomical photographic images of the time, but that dear readers, is another Film Festival. © Garry P. Dalrymple October 5, 2018.
Overall Comment and Recommendation – I have seen the promised lands of the imagination and I have explored many visions of alternative futures (and pasts). Through the program of the Sydney Sci-Fi Festival there is much to see and wonder at as in 2001 your journey to wonder will start when you too can say ‘I can see … Stars.’ Do try to attend the Festival this year, it’s all good, and good SF refreshes the imagination, reaching those parts of the mind that other genres seldom touch.
© Garry P. Dalrymple October 5, 2018.