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Aniara (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 2, 2020


ANIARA (2018)

Starring Emelie Jonsson, Bianca Cruzeiro, Arvin Kananian, Anneli Martini, Jennie Silfverhjelm, Peter Carlberg, Emma Broome, Jamil Drissi, Leon Jiber, Juan Rodríguez, David Nzinga, Dakota Trancher Williams, Otis Castillo Ålhed, Dante Westergårdh, Elin Lilleman Eriksson, Agnes Lundgren and Alexi Carpentieri.

Screenplay by Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja.

Directed by Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 106 minutes. Not Rated.

“A simple trip to Mars will become the journey of a lifetime.”

Within 11 minutes of the start of Aniara (titled after the state of the art, gigantic space vehicle of the same name that promises a journey from Earth’s orbit to Mars in three weeks) seemingly small events set the ship off its planned course and onto an uncertain future. Presented in timed increments, this sci-fi existential horror film is a study of human nature in chaos.

Aniara is a ship that has been developed with a focus on passenger comfort for the scheduled “long duration” three-week trip – 21 restaurants, an algae farm that keeps the air fresh, high end shopping, customer service focused staff. Even MIMA technology, a fully immersive simulation of a healthy earth that is passenger-specific, based on their personal memory banks, to help the few on the journey who feel homesick for earth or experience other stress from flight or trauma.

It’s easy to compare Aniara to the Titanic, but with a difference in the initial goal. Right from the start, it is apparent that this is less of a leisure transport and more of an evacuation from an abused and broken Earth. Many passengers also appear to be broken – psychologically and physically – from their experiences on the failing planet.

The lead character, MR (played by Emelie Jonsson) is the Mimaroben who is responsible for MIMA. She is bright, with a calm, self-aware optimism, like a present-day yogi. She appears to be ever happy in her job and role to help ease the transition for passengers on the space flight. She is also open to human connection and is at once attracted to the serious, flight crew member, Isagel (played by Bianca Cruzeiro).

This is the positive, romantic sub-storyline that would likely not have developed had the voyage gone as planned. MR and Isagel are opposites in their demeanor – MR wears her emotions on her sleeve while flight crew must repress emotion, the weight of so many passenger lives are resting on their discipline. But given the turn of events, we are allowed this one silver lining sub plot of happiness for our lead women… well, for a brief glimmer of time.

As it becomes more apparent that life on Aniara is becoming more long term, MIMA plays a more central, busy role in the passenger and crew lives. Some people escape into the simulation for longer portions of their day as their sole source of sanity, and the passengers develop a cult-like obsession with MIMA as a higher power.

The supply chain nerd in me loved the attention to detail as discussion turned to resources needed to run Aniara beyond the three-week anticipated journey. The pessimist in me loved the omniscient bleakness of the ship’s astronomer and MR’s cabinmate (played by Anneli Martini) when she verbalizes what she knows to be true, that the ship’s charismatic Captain Chefone (played by Arvin Kananian) is withholding the truth of their dire situation.

Aniara is a film with messages. Love giving purpose and meaning to life, the need to take care of the Earth that we have, human nature’s need for hope and what happens when hope is gone.

Aniara is a film that I can never unsee and, like my feelings towards AI after viewing Ex Machina, may become a cautionary tale towards my view of long-term space flight. Aniara is not for the faint of heart but is worth the watch if looking for a more cerebral fright fest.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: May 17, 2019.

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