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Aniara Main

Aniara Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Magnolia Pictures

Aniara Large

Written and directed by Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja
2018, 105 minutes, Not Rated
Released on May 17th, 2019

Emelie Jonsson as Mimaroben
Bianca Cruzeiro as Isagel
Arvin Kananian as Chefone
Anneli Martini as The Astronomer

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Horror means different things to different people, and what one finds scary may make another laugh. That’s the beauty of the genre; it’s malleable and fluid. However, there’s one thing that affects every one of us on one level or another: existential horror. We’re all going to go, so what does it all mean, after all?

I’ll do you one better by way of humor and present you with an existential crisis joke that’s particularly horrific. Here goes: Sometimes the only reason to hang onto this meaningless life is to spit in the face of this insane universe that we’re alone and adrift in, so…. wanna make out?

I doubt that Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson had exactly that in mind when he wrote his famous poem Aniara in 1956, but I’m no Nobel laureate. Still, if you don’t find that at least a tad horrifying, then maybe you should stop reading this review right now. At the very least, you really shouldn’t watch Aniara.

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A large group of humans are leaving a blasted and ruined Earth on board the spaceship Aniara, en route to Mars to start a new life. Early in their voyage, they are thrown off course by a random debris field that damages their fuel cells and forces them to dump the nuclear load. This also renders them unable to steer, and now the laws of inertia have them adrift in the cold recesses of deep space. If they can pass close to a celestial body, they can use its gravitational field to slingshot around and correct course. That’s what Captain Chefone (Arvin Kananian) tells the thousands on board, but the truth is that there are no celestial bodies in their path. They are doomed to drift for the rest of their existence. They satisfy themselves with consumer comforts in the city-sized spacecraft and try to ignore their impending doom. They also have a holodeck-like creation called Mima run by a lady known only as Mimaroben, who communicates with the mystical entity that soothes people with their memories and desires. Soon Mima is overwhelmed with all the pain and death and terminates itself. As the weeks turn into months and the months into years, the citizens of Aniara devolve into orgies, cults, and the banality of everyday life.

Aniara aims high in tackling an oft translated and well-respected work of a brilliant mind. The subject matter is universal and speaks a language that everyone feels on some level, leaving the filmmakers free to wow you with their visuals and the actors free to convey the slowly building horror of existential crisis. In that regard, it mostly succeeds. The budget, clearly not blockbuster in scale, doesn’t hamper the sleek science fiction flavor. It’s a killer concept executed wonderfully by a cast that believes in what they are doing.

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Mimaroben is the one character who nearly succeeds in holding onto herself throughout, and Emelie Jonsson plays the part with sensitivity and strength. Her lover, Isagel (Bianca Cruzeiro), and her roommate, The Astronomer (Anneli Martini), are clearly not as strong. Captain Chefone makes the most of all his scenes, a fine example of the corrupted little king ruling over his subjects in impudent fashion. It’s human drama as old as time itself set in the icy repose of space.

Aniara is, at times, off in its pacing and drags through some parts of the middle. There’s a stage play quality about it that will put some folks off. The look is pure sci-fi blowing past its budget, while the delivery is often stilted and jerky. Still, there are more than enough moments of genuine shock and human desperation effectively assaulting that sense of existential dread that we all have.

Event Horizon this is not. What it is asking you to do is to commit a little; to really give thought to that “What if I were in their shoes?” question that the best horror does. In other words, look a little deeper. Let that sci-fi/horror hybrid do its thing.

I think it wants to make out with you.

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Movie: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer - USA
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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