Entertainment » Movies


by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 23, 2019

In the eyes of some, science fiction is a genre built on the make believe, an imagining of the future, of technology, of things that we may one day make. When it is done right, science fiction transcends its trappings and, like so many great pieces of art, speaks to the human experience.

"Aniara" begins as a piece of hard sci-fi, steeped in pervasive technology that, while futuristic, does not feel unfathomably far off. But as the film plays out, its celestial setting dissolves into little more than window dressing as the story chooses to plumb the depths of the human psyche. It's a heartbreaking meditation on what we can overcome — and, maybe more importantly, what we cannot.

The Aniara is a luxury ship built for interstellar travel while not sacrificing the comforts of terrestrial life. The glorified cruise ship is equipped to deliver its many passengers from a dying Earth to a new frontier on Mars. But when an unexpected piece of space debris sends the ship careening off course with safety measures necessitating the dumping of all fuel, the ship is left stranded. As the Aniara drifts through space with seemingly no solution for a return, its inhabitants are forced to question their place in this vast universe.

"Aniara's" innocuous and comfortable beginning momentarily shields its viewers from the tragedy that is to come. For, while the film may appear as a space adventure at first blush, what lingers under the surface is an unrelenting disaster movie that unfolds in slow motion. First-time feature directors Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja build the world of "Aniara" deliberately. They establish this place with the care of one creating a home, dropping subtle hints at what may come in a manner that allows the viewer to uncover them while refusing to insist upon itself. The film builds gradually, disarming its viewers at its many junctures, until the inevitability of its ending crushes not only its characters but also its audience. Yet, even when the end becomes obvious to all, you yearn to see more, hoping against hope that there may be a way out of this darkness. But that's not the movie that you've signed up for, and the confidence with which Kagerman and Lilja deliver you into oblivion is mesmerizing.

The Blu-ray release is almost annoyingly content to rest on the strength of the film alone. It comes with only one disc, with not a digital copy in sight. Its special features are thin, with each featurette clocking comfortably under five minutes. For the impressive highs of "Aniara," the stripped-down release is aggravating at best and offensive at worst. Kagerman and Lilja have built a film that fills its runtime while still feeling spacious enough to stretch its legs, yet no effort was made to expand that in this media release. It's the type of release that leaves you searching for some kind of Easter egg, for this assuredly couldn't be it. "Aniara" is a delicate and captivating piece of modern science fiction that deserves your attention, but its Blu-ray release leaves plenty to be desired.



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