You know what? Sometimes you need to see a good Swedish sci-fi film to restore your faith in films but simultaneously destroy your faith in humanity. That’s what Aniara did well for me. It made me claustrophobic and terrified about my own existence while I simultaneously marvelled at what they managed to pull off on what I imagine is a pretty limited budget.
The film is set on a spacecraft that is carrying most of the Swedish population off of earth and taking them to the new settlement on Mars. The film kicks into gear when the massive space cruiser is knocked off course after the engine is taken out by space debris. With no way of turning and no means of communication the crew and passengers have to deal with the idea that they are stuck in this spacecraft for a very long time. The main thing to know about this is that it’s not based on a TV series, manga or epic sci-fi novel, it is actually based on an epic Swedish, sci-fi poem from the 50s. Quite a random selection of words there but not as random considering it is from Sweden.
The main narrative of the film is chopped up into chapters that focus on the amount of time they have been lost in space. We follow Mimaroben, who is brilliantly portrayed by Emelie Jonsson, as she boards the ship all the way through to the end. Each chapter feels the perfect amount of time to get to know the characters, find out where we are and then move on keeping the film that runs for just under 2 hours moving along at a brisk and enjoyable pace. These segments are giving you a severe amount of anxiety and they continue to up the ante as you become more and more and attached to MR. It is difficult to write about story wise considering what really amazed me was some of the key surprises of the film, so I feel it is best to go in on it blind and let the film take you on this terrifying journey through space.
With stunning visually, they really use their budget where it counts mainly for large shots of the spacecraft drifting off into space or enhancing the futuristic look of the Swedish shopping mall they very clearly used as their main deck for filming. It is not just the visuals that excite, the main overarching themes of the story, though nothing new, are well thought out and well explored within this spacecraft. I heard it described, post-screening, as a mash-up of High Life and High Rise. A comparison I wholeheartedly agree with. It gets the idea that idea of dealing with purpose and keeping faith in a time where there should be absolutely no hope from High Life, and then takes the chaotic mess that humans descend into without said purpose, faith or structure to their world.
Aniara is this chaotic look at what a lot of humans would do when they’re lost in space for what could be the rest of their life is utterly fascinating and completely stunning. Lifted even further with its great lead performance this Swedish-language sci-fi is definitely one of the biggest and best surprises of the festival so far and I feel it could be on track to take one of the top spots in my end of festival lists. Swedish sci-fi is much better than our sci-fi. I’d like much more of this, please.
ANIARA is released in cinemas and On Demand from 30th August.