Love is one of the stranger films I have watched so far this year. I do not pretend to have any idea what is going on and therefore this post may be even more rambling that usual!
This post is likely to contain spoliers from the outset.
This film is billed as being about an astronaut on the International Space Station (the blurb says an international space station) but in radio messages he signs off with “ISS” and no attempt is made during the film to identify the station as anything other than (a fictionalised version of) the International Space Station we are familiar with. The action is supposed to take place some 30 years or so in the future and our protagonist is the first person (the film repeatedly says “one of the first” but there is no evidence of any others) sent back to the station in some time. As the station loses contact with Earth for mysterious reasons the film shows his struggle to retain his sanity as weeks, months and finally years pass in isolation.
Now that would be quite an interesting film if that were what it is about but it isn’t. As far as I can tell (and as I say above I make no claim to understand it) the plot of the film is:
- During the American civil war, a soldier, Lee, who happens to have the same first name as our protagonist but doesn’t appear to be otherwise related is relieved of his responsibilities by his superior so that he can travel across the country to see an important artifact that has been discovered
- Lee leaves and travels across the country to discover the artifact while the rest of his company are blown up, stabbed, shot etc in slow motion. The movie leaves the audience on a literal cliff hanger as he stands at the lip of a crater looking at the artifact without revealing to us what it is
- In the future our hero Lee is on the ISS on his own for no explicable or explained reason. He talks to Earth on the radio, he looks out of the window, he performs diagnostics and tests, he runs on a treadmill, all the usual things you would expect a resident of the ISS to do
- Dramatically, he is no longer able to contact the Earth on the radio.
- After some time, he received an enigmatic “recorded” message telling him that “some shit” is happening on Earth and they won’t be able to talk to him or retrieve him from orbit
- Lee (space) spends some time going a bit mad.
- Something goes wrong with the station and, while doing some diagnostics, Lee (space) discovers Lee (past)’s journal describing his journey to find the artifact. Lee (space) is about as happy with the cliff hanger as we were earlier when he finds that the journal is blank after Lee (past) arrives at the crater
- More time is spent going crazy
- Lee talks to hallucinations and to himself, builds a den in which to read the journal for the nth time, draws on all available surfaces, attempts re-entry in just his space suit but thinks better of it
- At some point the mysterious artefact is revealed to be what looks like a crashed space ship
- Bloody great Borg cube like space craft arrives and docks with ISS
- Lee (space) leaves the ISS and wanders around what appears to be an ordinary building with corridors, lifts, emergency exits, planetarium etc.
- Lee (space) finds himself in a server room with what looks like a tape library robot and a book apparently by him
- There’s some psychadelic stuff a la 2001 where he plays with some nebulae and stars etc and a pretentious voice over about experiments in human contact
Now perhaps you can see why I have no idea what’s going on. I generally like films without much explanation, I enjoy occasionally coming away from a movie thinking “what the hell just happened” but didn’t really get on with this one.
Love is regularly compared to Moon and Inception. I really enjoyed the crazyness and unpredictability of Moon and Inception had a good story but this doesn’t match either of them for crazy or story.
All the way through it is cut with deadpan interviews with “average Joe” type characters who have no relation to the rest of the film whatsoever. These are very jarring and don’t enlighten the main action at all. If they had begun to intrude into the “reality” of Lee (space) a bit then that might have been a nice way to integrate them and further illustrate the break down of his reality.
All the stuff on the space station I really enjoyed. The set was cool and everything was nicely filmed. The way that the interior of the station, as well as the character’s physical appearance, deteriorated over the course of the film nicely reflected the deteriorating mental state of the character.
Two things repeatedly got on my nerves in the ISS scenes. Firstly, there is clearly gravity on this station when there is none on the ISS. No explanation is given for this very obvious difference (although there is some attempt later to explain that the station is better and, for some reason that is not expanded on, is further away from the Earth). The film makers appear to have realised that this is an issue as they seem to be trying to compensate for it by filming everyday things from odd angles so that it looks like he is running on the wall or standing on the ceiling but all this does is make the fact that there is gravity in space more jarring. Obviously later on when we begin to question whether anything that we are seeing is actually real it becomes obvious that there is no reason why there shouldn’t be gravity on this imaginary space station but it would help the viewers to buy into the stranded in space scenario in the early part of the film if it was at least explained.
The second thing that bugged me in the ISS scenes was the fans. There was a bank of large fans spinning against a bright white background. Possibly due to my TV or BluRay player these appeared to flicker or move in a very jerky way that was very distracting.
The civil war stuff was nicely filmed too although there was in my opinion far too much use of slow motion in the battle scenes. However, like all the sequences not shot on the ISS set, the war scenes seemed tacked on and of little relevance to the main theme, ultimately diluting the isolation of the main character.
The “interviews” are similarly distracting from the plot and the main character but are just pretentious and add nothing in the way of interest or visual stimulation. The only justification for adding these is to add to the idea of some kind of intelligence cataloguing human experiences. This could have been done much more seamlessly, possibly after space Lee had entered the big cube.
I’ve been rambling for a while now so I’ll try to sum up how I feel about this film: an interesting idea but could have done with more of one or all of the following:
- Psychedelic scenes
And less of:
- Fake interviews
- Pretentious voice overs#
- Slo-mo civil war reenactment
Just found out that this film was made as part of the work of band/”art project” Angels and Airwaves which explains a thing or two. Cut out some of the annoying extra bits and it would make a brilliant 50 minute extended music video!