Saturday, May 17, 2008

"On the Silver Globe", film by Andrzej Zulawski

Based on something called "The Lunar Trilogy" by Zulawski's great uncle Jerzej Zulawski, it's truly a hidden gem. It's a science fiction story, and one of the highest quality sci-fi films I've ever seen. The story goes like this: four astronauts on a mission to a habitable planet picked for possible colonization crash land, killing one and leaving three others, two men and one woman. They adapt to their new situation by learning to hunt fish, construct clothes out of native materials, along with shelter. From the beginning the planet's environment is so utterly different that it changes their whole view of life and of the world. The female astronaut came pregnant with the baby of the deceased astronaut and she gives birth to the child, who grows up in this different world, in the circumstances that the survivors have carved out for themselves, with earth being known to him from stories. Over time the settlement becomes more and more tribalistic, more like cultures that are found in the south pacific and elsewhere, and the female astronaut continues to conceive and to give birth in order to keep the human race going.

Eventually she enters the mythology of the group, that has now been totally immersed in the new culture for nearly a generation, as the great mother, the creator of the earth, the ancestor of all of humanity. The male astronaut who has fathered most of the children is, in a much lesser sense, is eventually also deified. Hunting, gathering, life, death, all becomes part of the new religion. The last astronaut is sort of ostracized from the community, lead by the first child, until an incident involving the leader prompts him to order him killed. After that he assumes the role of both religious leader and the general elder of the community, although other people serve as the actual day to day leaders.

This suits him very well because he was the philosopher of the group, now in a situation where his philosophy and thoughts on life can be worked with and provide food for thought for the people. The philosophy is adapted to the situation, with the people not treated as stupid but as sincere questioners who just want to understand the life that they're living. It turns out that he has fathered some of the last children with the great mother, and like Moses the line of these children becomes the priestly one, with the immediate daughter taking over and becoming a law giver.

I haven't even scratched the surface of all the stuff that happens. They find that there's a race of beings that also inhabit the planet known as Shernes, and engage in war with them, at one point being enslaved by them. Then there's another war lead by an new astronaut that's crash landed generations and generations after the start of the community. You see how the community has developed and permutated in the intervening years.

It goes on and on, beautifully produced, made, and thought out. But not quite. There was a change in the cultural department of Communist Poland during the filming and the film was ordered stopped. The footage was condemned to be destroyed but was saved by the studio. There are large gaps in the film that Zulawski at the beginning explains and that he tries to compensate for by giving a voice over explanation of what happens during these scenes.

I really, really, wish that "The Lunar Trilogy" by Jerzej Zulawski will eventually come out in an English edition, because this is really good stuff. According to Wiki it's been translated into virtually every other European language and is a big success there.

Fortunately, "On the Silver Globe" is available in U.S. DVD format all over the place, like Here.

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