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FÖRENINGEN FILM I MALMÖ PRESENTS
Dir. Alex Garland
ADVENTURE DRAMA HORROR MYSTERY SCI-FI THRILLER
Even within the resurgence of genre Sci-Fi, rarely do you see a film that’s built from the templates of Tarkovsky films like “Solaris” or “Stalker,” movies that used sci-fi in a discomfiting, emotional register because, well, that kind of filmmaking is incredibly difficult to pull off. It’s so difficult in fact that Paramount had no idea what to do when they saw “Annihilation,” barely promoting it, holding it from press until a few days before release … they’re burying a genre gem here, an ambitious, challenging piece of work that people will be dissecting for years. Don’t miss it. (EBERT)
“Annihilation” is based on the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach Trilogy, but it also seems to owe a considered debt to the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In Virgil’s telling, Orpheus journeys to the underworld in an attempt to retrieve his adored wife, Eurydice, who has died from a snake bite. Ovid revisitedthe myth in “Metamorphoses” and centuries later Jean Cocteau put a modern spin on it in “Orpheus” (1950), a hypnotically lovely film in which death’s emissary is a striking woman who rides around in a black Rolls-Royce flanked by motorcyclists. “A legend is entitled to be beyond time and place,” the narrator in Cocteau’s film says. “Interpret it as you wish …”
In “Annihilation” it’s Lena who assumes the role of Orpheus, descending into a transfigured world filled with terrors, death, eccentric beauty and room for interpretive leeway. She and the other women have been tasked with understanding both the shimmer and why earlier expeditions failed so profoundly. With Dr. Ventress riding herd, Lena and the others — a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez), a physicist (Tessa Thompson) and an anthropologist (Tuva Novotny) — survey the terrain, take samples and fight off threats, including, in time, one another. They also discover a horrific video made by an earlier expedition, a scene that abruptly shifts the movie into a Grand Guignol freakout.
Mr. Garland likes to play with tones, mixing deadpan in with the frights, and later “Annihilation” becomes something of a head movie, swirling with cosmic and menacingly lysergic visions. He keeps the tension torqued throughout this phantasmagoric interlude, sustaining the shivery unease that is one of this movie’s deeper satisfactions. Something is troubling Lena, whose personal life comes into focus over a series of flashbacks that are entirely too banal. Ms. Portman does her part with presence and persuasive stern looks, yet there’s something missing from Mr. Garland’s conception of Lena, whose mythic story bristles with dread but lacks the soul that might make you care. (NYT)