A film I´ve only seen once and yet to fully figure out. But I am already entranced by it and convinced of its greatness. It´s not ‘entertaining’ in a traditional sense. It´s dour, and harsh, sexy and tender, with moments of harrowing violence and many instances of sexual violation, some by women towards men. It´s a complex movie. And beautiful: amber lights reflected on space-ship helmets designed to show as much of Robert Pattinson´s face as possible, the luminous greens of a garden inside a spaceship that seems an Eden, keeps everyone alive but hides dead bodies.
Denis makes a space movie like no other I´ve seen. The spaceship here is not a phallic cock triumphantly piercing through the atmosphere and into space but a box, rusty, like a jail, which is kind of what it is. The ship houses convicts who were given the choice of life sentence on earth or a mission into space, one which would take several generations to succeed, so reproduction is necessary. The spaceship has a fuck box were inmates go to relief their sexual frustrations but which also gathers sperm that women are then forcibly inseminated with.
Monte (Robert Pattinson) is the only one who chooses to remain celibate but Dibs, the doctor played by Juliette Binoche, has sex with him whilst he´s sleeping and forcibly implants the sperm he´s left in her on a younger woman. Finally, after many failed attempts, a baby is born in the ship, and Dibs tells Monte it´s his.
Conceptually the film is fascinating. The ship is a jail. News from earth keeps arriving in soundbites, faded images of Native Americans dying in early Westerns, news that is no longer relevant. Life on board is always on 24 hour notice. If the daily log isn´t filed nightly, the ship shuts down and with it the food and energy necessary for survival. Moreover, the ship is heading towards a black hole and previous attempts to change direction have failed. Will Monte and his daughter succeed when they try again at the end? We don´t know.
It´s a film to think about a whole lot more but what remains vivid at present is Pattinson´s performance, so reticent, recessive even, but conveying a hurt, a shying away from society, yet power too — he´s muscly and built– and capable of great tenderness with the child. He reminded me of that famous ´L’enfant’ poster but one imbued with a more complex character and motivation, less syrupy. The look of the film is astonishing also, with haunting poetic imagery, imaginatively composed, and expressively coloured. It´s not an easy watch. But it´s a great film, mysterious and complex, one to see again and think about some more.