Aniara (2018) – Film Review
Directors: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja
Cast: Emelie Jonsson, Bianca Cruzeiro, Arvin Kananian
by Sarah Morgan
Low-budget and sci-fi movies are not phrases you would normally put together. Instead, we tend to think of hugely expensive offerings such as Star Wars, Star Trek and their ilk whenever science fiction is mentioned.
But there have been some impressive examples in recent years, including Attack the Block, Moon and Monsters. Now we can add Aniara to the list.
It’s based on an epic 1956 poem by Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson. It’s previously been the inspiration for an opera, a choral theatre work and two music albums (by electropop musician Kleerup and prog metal band Seventh Wonder); the surprise is that it’s never been made into a movie before.
“Escape from despair”
The story takes place on board the Aniara, a spacecraft transporting people from a scorched Earth to a new life on Mars. This is not a trip undertaken with research in mind, or to push new boundaries, but done out of necessity. The people are ordinary, with every flaw and foible imaginable – their journey is not one of joy, but of tedium.
However, the trip can be enlivened by periods spent with Mima, an artificial intelligence who helps visitors explore their memories. Initially, the passengers would seemingly prefer to visit the cosmic shopping malls along Aniara’s vast corridors – but a disaster changes everything.
Following a collision with space junk, the craft is sent off course. Without the power to regain it, its inhabitants are left drifting through space to an uncertain future. Suddenly Mima offers an escape from despair, but on being exposed to humanity at its very worst, the AI commits suicide, leaving the people it was supposed to help to fend for themselves – and how they ‘cope’ with their predicament is very disturbing indeed.
The first-time film-making partnership of Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja have done a remarkable job in transferring their vision to the screen. Although special effects are inevitable, they are kept to a minimum; it is the humdrum quality of the Aniara that gives the story added depth and realism.
Emelie Jonsson delivers a compelling performance as MR, the woman charged with taking care of Mima, but whose cautionary words fall on deaf ears.
Don’t expect to feel warm and cosy after viewing. Aniara may be set centuries in the future, but it has a lot to say about the way we live today; it is a sophisticated allegory about the problems caused by the human race.
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
Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork
Aniara is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £19.99