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Aniara (2018) Movie Poster
Sweden / Denmark  •    •  106m  •    •  Directed by: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja.  •  Starring: Emelie Jonsson, Bianca Cruzeiro, Arvin Kananian, Anneli Martini, Jennie Silfverhjelm, Emma Broomé, Jamil Drissi, Leon Jiber, Peter Carlberg, Juan Rodríguez, David Nzinga, Dakota Trancher Williams, Otis Castillo Ålhed.  •  Music by: Alexander Berg.
     A spaceship carrying settlers to Mars is knocked off course, causing the consumption-obsessed passengers to consider their place in the universe.


Image from: Aniara (2018)
Image from: Aniara (2018)
Image from: Aniara (2018)
Image from: Aniara (2018)
Image from: Aniara (2018)
Image from: Aniara (2018)
Image from: Aniara (2018)
"Aniara" is an ambitious film project that attempts to bring Harry Martinson's eponymous poem to life on the big screen. At an unknown point in the future (likely several hundred years), Earth is no longer hospitable due to climate change, and humans have begun full colonization of Mars in an attempt to escape inevitable extinction. The method of transportation is a 3-week "space cruise" on the luxury craft Aniara. Sadly, the ship is knocked off course and is doomed to drift indefinitely until the ship runs into a celestial body, at which point they hope to use gravity to slingshot the ship back into orbit.

Full disclosure: I have not read Martinson's poem, or had even heard of it until this film was released. I am going to review this film solely on its own merits. Unfortunately, my work is cut out for me.

The plot is undeniably intriguing, especially to the sci-fi fan, or the dystopian future buffs. As it so happens, I fall into both categories, and I was really excited to see how this extremely limited release film would capture my attention.

80% of "Aniara" did the exact opposite of this, due to a few reasons. The most thrilling moment in this film is when the captain announces that the ship has gone off course, which is met with an audible gasp by the passengers. You can watch that in the trailer. After that, things sort of return to normal. People play mini golf, drink at trendy clubs, shop for suits, and have sex with each other. This served to completely remove me from the claustrophobic themes that are supposed to be present. In the very few scenes where people are shown to be in physical danger or in existential panic, things are resolved neatly and quickly, again cheapening the experience.

The film is divided into chapters (think Lars von Trier) that skip ahead several years each, and we are supposed to fill in the blanks of what goes on in between chapters. There are very few (maybe four?) main characters, whose story arcs are cheapened due to lack of character development caused by these giant jumps in time. I'm a fan of dividing films into chapters, but when it is a choice made at the expense of character and plot development, it falls on its face. This is made worse by the fact that the key interpersonal relationship in the film -- Mimaroben (Emelie Jonsson) and Isagel (Bianca Cruzeiro) -- seems to blossom without the audience giving a chance to learn about the characters. There is supposed to be a strong emotional impact based on this relationship, but I couldn't feel a thing because I knew next to nothing about them. There were so many moments in the film I wished I could rewind to a scene they never shot. I can't tell whether the characters are stale and one-dimensional, or if this was just a massive blunder on the directors' part.

More themes are introduced in each chapter, seemingly out of nowhere:

The most brazen example is a bizarre and completely unnecessary ritualistic orgy scene (pretty much ripped from Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut") that is never explained or mentioned again. Speaking of graphic sex and nudity, there's a ton of it, and none of it seemed to be relevant or necessary. It seemed to be shoe-horned in for a bit of eye candy, which is just annoying and stale to me.

Another great example is the idea of running out of food -- it's mentioned early on that eventually the passengers will need to survive solely on algae (yes, algae), and they recruit passengers to work on the algae farms, but there is no depiction of panic from running out of actual food. The movie just goes on, business as usual. Wouldn't that be a good thing to focus on in this movie that is supposedly supposed to be about a space disaster?

Yet another example is how an AI entity on board suddenly goes rogue for no reason, takes on a speaking personality, and then is shut down because it's malfunctioning. It's just never explained or mentioned again.

I could legitimately go on with several more examples, but you get the picture.

I hate when I start waiting for a film to end, but that's what happened to me and "Aniara." Eventually I just checked out. There are a bunch of quality sci-fi disaster films that deal with isolation, existentialism, and claustrophobia in a much better manner.

Review by kim_smoltz from the Internet Movie Database.