Friday, October 2, 2009

Andrzej Żuławski's ON THE SILVER GLOBE

"One of cinema's most stunning extravagances, and the most frightening art film you will ever see," says Film Comment's Michael Atkinson about this banned science fiction epic by controversial director Andrzej Zulawski. The Polish Ministry of Culture halted production On The Silver Globe in 1978, and until the fall of communism in 1986 when Zulawski completed the film, it remained both his best-known and least-seen work. In this surreal and disturbing mix of 2001 and Lord Of The Flies, a group of space pioneers starts a colony on the moon. As the adults die off, the children revert to primitive forms, creating their own myths, deities, and social classes. Years later, a politician from earth arrives and - fulfilling the moon people's prophecy - is hailed as their great messiah.

Background: Andrzej Zulawski started work on On the Silver Globe in 1976 and was nearing the end of shooting when the Polish government shut down production in 1978. The sets and prints were destroyed, but the director and members of his cast and crew managed to smuggle some of the pieces out of the country. Zulawski then returned to the relatively open Poland of 1986 to try to finish his movie. He didn’t quite succeed, but what he ended up with is fascinating.

On The Silver Globe is one of the most delirious and viscerally intense experiences I've ever had ever viewing a film. Think of the beautiful, languid cinematography of the Zone in Tarkovksy's Stalker, the madness of Jodorowsky's films (without the shallow visual metaphors), the sexual insanity of Ken Russell's The Devils, the ambitious costuming in Kurosawa's Ran, and you might have something close to this film.

At the film's peak of insanity, there is a sequence which features a dozen or so people impailed on 100-foot stakes... on the beach...on the moon!? The camera, which is inexplicably floating over the impailed, stops on a man and holds steady as he delivers his dying words

Stylus Magazine on On The Silver Globe:

"There are all kinds of “lost masterpieces” in any field of art, from great non-albums by The Beach Boys and Captain Beefheart to missing Da Vinci paintings. Add one to the list for cinema. It is tempting to wish Zulawski had had a chance to finish his movie on his own terms, but I think maybe it’s better this way. It seems almost as though this film’s natural state is one of incompleteness, and it is hard to imagine what completion would add. No matter how finished it is, it’s not a likeable movie, not a reasonable one, and while no amount of polish could make me like it, no amount of roughness can keep me from loving it."

"To please the majority is the requirement of the Planet Cinema. As far as I'm concerned, I don't make a concession to viewers, these victims of life, who think that a film is made only for their enjoyment, and who know nothing about their own existence."

Andrzej Zulawski

This is an incredible film. There are only few films that have a strange power over me, that manage to keep me hooked from the very first scenes, making impossible for me to look away until the very end -- the dialog between Dr. Raglan and his patient in the opening of The Brood, when automated doors burst open in the airport and Suzy enters the cab in Suspiria, the opening sequence in Zulawski's later film (and equally insane) Possession, and the opening to On The Silver Globe is no exception, it is remarkably haunting -- an shadowy black figure with beautiful costume excess (almost Native American) rides a horse through a snowy, otherwordly setting to a human bunker/compound where he delivers unsettling news in his bizarre home language. Seek this one out. It doesn't matter if you like this film or not, it will have an effect on you.

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