Sunday, May 13, 2012


An expedition crashlands on a distant, Earth-like planet. Existing within the planet's accelerated time stream, the survivors of the crash undergo physical and spiritual changes that lead to the creation of new socieites, worlds, and realms of thought. Meanwhile, filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski (creating this film from a trilogy of science fiction novels by his granduncle) has the film taken from him by the Polish government, who attempts to destroy the footage. Miraculously, the studio and the film's cast & crew intervene, saving most of the footage, and Zulawski resorts to stripped down means to complete the film taken out of his hands ten years prior, creating still more realms within the already sprawling and ambitious epic.
So many strands of cultural thought and activity seem to converge in this fantastic film - the film builds on both the physically gruelling theatre of Jerzy Grotowski and the shamanic cinematic visions of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and anticipates (among many, many other things) the "found footage stream" of horror film and the long-take apocalypse of Cuaron's CHILDREN OF MEN. The patchwork done to complete the narrative, contemporary traveling shots taken within Poland with Zulawski narrating the story in voiceover, is a completion strategy Welles would have admired. In the end, the film takes on its own magickal form of existence. I admit to losing the story line somewhere in the third hour, but consider seeing the face of God on screen as more than adequate compensation. Something inside me accelerated, even as the denizens of the film had their own existences expanded, distorted, destroyed. A couple of stories that had been stuck in my mind found resolution and continuation, but even these soon fell behind me as the movie propelled me toward more complex, deeper understandings. All of the strands that came before the film, and the streams coming from it, seem to form the lines of a pyramid, and you can follow any of them up to the apex. And from that point, where the lines coalesce into a single point, the visible becoming invisible, the invisible tangible, you can see so much more than a film.
Zulawski's film concludes with his camera running frantically through a crowded street, describing the film's final image of a riderless horse tearing down the surf of a beach. I could see that horse with crystalline clarity. And Zulawski finished describing the efforts to end and destroy his film, his camera finally came to rest on his own face, reflected within a pane of glass on the street. Zulawski caught his breath, picked up his camera, and resumed his trek. His movie lives.

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