If you were to read the Guardian review of ANIARA (and I suggest you do), you would see a clearly enamored film critic gush over a film. I will not be doing this. It is not that the sci fi, space drama was not all it wanted to live up to. It pondered humanity place among the stars. Drifting through existentialist ideas about the self, collective fear, grief and animal desires. Mimaroben (Emelie Jonsson) works onboard the Aniara. This is pegged as an spaceship of luxury but is really an escape ship. Taking passengers from Earth to Mars in less than three weeks. Mimaroben job is to keep a machine called the Mima, operational.
Why? Well this is where ANIARA finds both its grit and its riffs on other, richer sci fi work. You see the machine is designed to dig up viewers’ personal memories of Earth, then place them inside and allow them to revel in them. Ok we know where this leads. The Earth experience becomes fetishised by the inhabitants. When the ship veers off course after colliding with space debris, its captain sends a message around that the ship is stricken. All its fuel has been cast adrift and now they are travelling into the depth of space. Light might be at the end of the tunnel. A distant orb could be used to catapult them back. When crew and cast call bullshit on the idea, everything collapses in on itself. Tau Zero by Poul Anderson has been directly lifted here. Though ANIARA makes more of a meal of the humanity and decay of the occupants. Take my word for it that writers Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja have spritz the piece with an edge, it feels like a toned down rendition of far more probing works. As the ship hurtles to oblivion, the decay becomes like a soft translation of many of J G Ballard’s best work. I saw HIGHRISE, CONCRETE ISLAND and heard almost word for word, THE DROWNED WORLD in its breath.
But let us not get obtuse. ANIARA has something. A glint of genius in all of this riffs of others marvels. Cast away that tepid love story. The child bearing, dream extracting, nightmare rupturing scenes that are Kubrickesque are what make it worth your attention. These are the root of something great in all of that detritus of others. These are the things that space and time require…
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-rayTM presentation
- 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and lossless stereo audio
- Optional English subtitles
- New interview with directors Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja
- Interview with production designer Maja-Stina Åsberg
- Interview with sound designer Calle Wachtmeister
- Interview with VFX supervisor Andreas Wicklund
- The Unliving (Återfödelsen), an award-winning 30-minute short film by Lilja and Kågerman and starring Emelie Jonsson, about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse
- Theatrical trailer
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson