Monday, May 19, 2008

The Damaged Artifact

Na srebrnym globie "On The Silver Globe"(1987)
Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
It's difficult to judge this film accurately because it is a fragmented damaged piece of an artifact, but like Michelangelo's armless David or the defaced Sphinx, the crack in the Liberty Bell, etc, broken things can still hold a remarkable power, perhaps more so than if they had remained intact. Polish authorities halted production of this film, confiscated and burned props, setts, costumes, and footage, leaving about 25 percent of the remaining film, instead of making a documentary about the horrors that befell him ala "Lost In La Mancha" (though Zulawski did have significantly more footage Gilliam), he includes the destruction of the film as part of the narrative.Those scenes which aren't intact are summarized through voice over from the director himself as hand-held cam(still dizzying Zulawski) tours an unmanned Polish city.

The story of "On The Silver Globe" is an adaptation of "The Lunar Trilogy" written by the directors Uncle Jerry Zulawski between 1901 and 1911 (never published in English but popular in Europe), about a Space Crew landed on a distant moon inhabited by primitive humanoid creatures, who find a device which shows them the voyage of an earlier space flight to the planet made by pilgrims who crash or are seeking a new life (it's never clear at least in the film).

After the crash landing the crew begin their struggle to survive on the alien moon. Well one thing leads to another and the process of procreation begins, except the children born on the planet grow at an extremely accelerated rate generations passing in less than decades. The first hour or so of the film is all p.o.v. handicam shots ala "Cloverfield", "The Blair Witch Project", "Diary Of The Dead", etc, we see only what the astronaut's see as they begin rebuilding civilization.We observe the culture, customs, architecture, and even fashions of the newly developing humans over generations which seem to pass in the time it takes the original astronauts to grow facial hair.Because the astronauts age at a much slower rate, they become Godlike elders of the newly emerging (from incest) humans. The anthropological goings on in the background, are more interesting by far than the dialog which I can understand why other's might say sound like the ramblings of mental patients obsessed with meaning, feeling, and Godliness. At first I thought the dialog was the result of hallucination and the stress of surviving in a new completely isolated environment, then as the astronauts die off, I thought again, this is is the result of this last man's increasing isolation. Unable to communicate with his offspring who are in fear/awe of his existence, asking,"Why don't you die?", as he wanders the village despondent. Then later I considered it was an affect of the planet, maybe even the Shern projecting some kind of madness (will address get to this later), and inevitably considered there was no reason for the obtuse dialog which does sound, more often then not, dubiously sane, as well as the possibility that their madness is somehow supposed to be a reflection of our own.Native and Earth-born alike all seem equally psychotic, in exploring the extremities of their environments; the former in collective ways like war, torture, orgies, and the latter in personal ways drugs, dementia, delusions of grandeur, but I digress.The second half of the film shows us one of the astronauts who discovered the origins of the planet in the recording device, being selected as the messiah, by the natives who we come to realize are the descendants of the first mission.Think of Earth as Heaven and you get the Biblical allusion to The Resurrection.The new Messiah indulges in his Godking status, and deals with the threat posed by winged telepathic creatures called Sherns who kidnap and mate with native women to produce...lizard men? What follows is espionage, decadence, war, and delirious parade of fantastic and occasionally grotesque images.Like p.o.v. shots of men impaled rectally on 100ft stakes with their intestines hanging out, crucifictions, etc.) All and all On "The Silver Globe" is a messy movie, brilliant visual poetry and an interesting anthropological concept somewhere between Ursula K Lu Guine and Alejandro Jodorowsky but predating them both by almost fifty years(date of the original story).Factor in that this film wasn't completed for political reasons, which Zulawaski does, each time he shows us real people walking around as he describes what the astronaut's did next, and you've got an interesting if imperfect jewel of a film. If completed in full it probably would not have been a masterpiece, though the first hour are some of the most naturalistic and oddly surreal images of coming to a new planet that I have ever seen in any SF film, however it would definitely have a loyal place as a cult classic snugly on DVD shelves somewhere between "The Holy Mountain", and "Dune". For adventurous literate film seekers, this is a fragmented modern story of the cyclical nature of time, the destructive nature of hero/God worship and deification, and human cultural anthropology. Like the film found by the astronauts "On The Silver Globe" is a damaged and incomplete artifact, sacrificed and crucified before it's time like it's protagonist.While warning of the abuses of power and ideologies we accept and propagate which allow them to flourish, and which inevitably lead to this films own cancellation and attempted destruction.

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