I went from one extreme to another at the Sci-Fi film festival in London this year. A few days ago it was lo-fi self-reflective crayon birds joyfest Birdemic 2. Then I moved on to the cold and cerebral Lithuanian sci-fi Vanishing Waves by Kristina Buozyte, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Horror, as a genre, produces a lot of trash that us fans, consume shamelessly to get our fix. I am also a fan of science-fiction, somehow, but I am very selective with what I like, and 90% of what is produced is absolutely terrible, without the added touch of trash or fun that makes even the worst horror film somehow entertaining. And I have to admit, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate and whatever, and all the popular franchises let me cold. I like my science-fiction to be cold and cerebral, opening up plenty of metaphysical questions, and there are very few of them of the kind sadly.
It is such a shame when you think about how the endless mysteries of nature, science and space do not produce some more imaginative stories. A few months ago, I remember reading how scientists had discovered a planet made of diamonds, as well as a planet so dark, it barely reflected any light at all. When I say discovered, what they really mean is theories based on the numerical data they collected, but even still, who do more screenwriters let their imagination go wild?
|Aurora is the original title of Vanishing Waves|
Vanishing waves troubles itself with the crevisses of the human mind, a mystery that we have barely begun to crack. In it, thanks to an experimental device which allows a person to connect with the mind of another, a man is linked to a patient in a coma, hoping to somehow find a way of waking her up through stimulus. But the process is more successful than anybody had ever anticipated...
The film is incredibly ambitious, and evoked a lot of influences, although I am not entirely sure whether they were intentional or I have just dreamed them up. That is not to say that it is not original, far from it. In terms of story, the most obvious reference is The Cell, as if it had been remade in a more arthouse kind of way. But while The Cell used the imagery of various artists to represent the world within the mind of a serial killer (such as Damien Hirst and Pierre & Giles), here it is as if those worlds are influenced by other film directors.
There is a scene of a dreamed up banquet in particular which reminded me of Peter Greenaway, in the way a perfectly mathematical and almost sterile environment is being gradually polluted by an organic wave of food and bodies (a bit like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover). Another scene gave a nod to a particularly yucky Brian Yuzna film (I won't say which one as to not to spoil it), although, when asked about it at the Q&A, the director claimed she only saw that film after the shoot finished.
Among other influences, there were hints of Paperhouse (a sort of arthouse British A Nightmare On Elm Street which I thoroughly recommend) for its unusual otherwordly setting, as well as Inception even (with a rather mindblowing sex scene in a spinning room, filmed to look like those spinning scenes in the hotel in the Christopher Nolan film).
All the more surprising is how the director managed to keep it all coherent despite the wildly different ideas and references, as well as truly beautiful to look at despite what a suspect was a fairly low budget, conjuring some stunningly beautiful and unusual images. The production design in particular is impressive, going with a more minimalist approach, a half finished house made of torn out white splinters looking particularly impressive. And a 70's looking science lab gives more than a nod to Solaris by Tarkovsky.
Somehow I do feel that I make it sound better than the actual result. As despite its appearance as a cerebral sci-fi, I left thinking that the film did not actually have that much to say. It does not so much explore the mysteries of the human mind as set an unusual love story solely within its confines, and the end result is visually striking but somehow a little uninvolving, despite a rather affecting performance from lead actress Jurga Jutaite, with most scenes set in the real world dragging on a little. And the lead male character is so unsympathetic that it is hard to care about anything that might happen to him. Ultimately, attempts to a more original science-fiction are so rare however that they must be celebrated nevertheless so I would most definitely recommend you lose yourself in Vanishing Waves.