Verge Reviews: ANIARA

I was interested to review this film when I first heard about it because of a very interesting fact. The Swedish Nobel prize winner Harry Martinsson wrote ‘ANIARA’ as a poem in 1956 affected by the Cold War and the test detonations of the Hydrogen Bomb. It since then has been translated into different languages and developed into opera and stage productions, this is the first film adaption.

Based on a concept by Nobel prize-winner Harry Martinson, ‘ANIARA’ is the story of one of the many spaceships used for transporting Earth’s fleeing population to their new home-planet Mars. But just as the ship leaves the destroyed Earth, she collides with space junk and is thrown off her course. The passengers slowly realize that they’ll never be able to return.

The protagonist, MR (Emelie Jonsson), runs a room where a sentient computer allows humans to experience near-spiritual memories of the Earth. As the ship drifts further into the endless void more and more passengers are in need of MRs services. Pressure builds on MR as she is the only one who can keep the growing insanity and lethal depression at bay.

In Aniara’s inexorable journey towards destruction, there is a warning that cannot be emphasized enough.

There’s only one Earth. It’s time to take responsibility for our actions.

The Directors Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja, are graduates of Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Art and National College of Film & Television respectively, Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja have been collaborating since 2009. They created philosophical zombie short ‘THE UNLIVING’ that won prizes at various film festivals – including Berlinale, The Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival and The Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. They are represented by ITG in the UK and by WME in the US. ‘ANIARA’ is their first feature film.

With the poem already being over 60 years old, it is impressive to be able to take the weight of what that carries and produce a strong film adaptation from it. I think it is safe to say the premise is not super original and I’d be lying if I did not admit that my first strong comparison was that of Disney Pixar’s Wall-E. However, I don’t mean for that comparison to be taking anything away from this film. This is an interesting and very engaging film.

I want to tread lightly and not go into much detail as it might ruin some of the strong moments that the film has. I will say that ANIARA is a compelling story with great cinematography and a strong performance from the lead. It seems that everyone who worked on adapting this clearly knew what they wanted to do with it. It was like watching an existential nightmare slowly unfold before your eyes and truly heightens the fear of space travel and the unknown predictabilities around that. It is a slow-burning view of humanity not struggling to survive, more struggling to handle the outlasting effects of this incident.

If you are looking for a film that allows you to experience one of the many possible bleak and inevitable futures that await us, then I would strongly recommend this.

Available in Cinemas and Digital Platforms 30th August

Directed by: Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja

Produced by: Annika Rogell and Meta Film Stockholm 

Starring: Emelie Jonsson