What a pleasant movie experience! I’m not sure what it means, or if it “means” anything at all, that’s for the SPOILERS review. But what I will tell you know, which is that this is a very calming pleasant strangely peaceful movie watching experience. If you need two hours of peace in your life, I recommend this film.
I was watching this with my friend Dina, who is a Kubrick Mega Fan, so she was very quick to point out the Kubrickian influences, most noticeably the floating spaceship opening. Kubrick is about kind of a clockwork universe, there is no particular “point of view” character, his camera takes a step back and watches, with interest and kindness, what is happening in front of him. That is the kind of film this is. The camera steps back and watches, gently, as a few things happen and a few people live their lives.
Like a lot of Kubrick’s work, this is also a very High Concept film. “High Concept” means an elaborate original conflict/structure in which our story happens and characters appear and so on. “Low Concept” means a very simple structure in which our characters slowly make things happen. Harry Potter is High Concept, Friends is Low Concept. Neither is better than the other, it’s just categories of creation, each with their own challenges and advantages.
In this case, the “High Concept” lets the filmmaker do a bit of a trick on the audience. This exact same film could have taken place in a tea shop, a government office, any random setting. It’s just two characters getting to know each other and talking about their work and interacting with customers. But because it is on a spaceship, and has a complicated mythology behind it, it feels like more is happening than actually is. We relax into an easy low stakes conversational movie, the surface of our awareness filled in with costumes and props and set design, while under the surface we find ourselves briefly shifting our whole way of viewing the world, of time and space.
The actors are also excellent, Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi manage to make us care about them, without any of the tricks actors usually have. There’s no passionate speech, there’s no clear explanation of their backstory, there are just hints and small moments and what happens as they go about their day. But their faces are so open, so simple, we care about them just for their humanity. It’s a pity this is a “High Concept” film, because it makes it easier to ignore their skill. If this were a two person drama in a hotel room, they would be getting accolades. As it is, it is hard to see past the concept to the people who are inhabiting it.
I highly recommend this film, but in a very particular way. If you are looking for drama and excitement and emotion to sweep you away, don’t watch it. If you can’t stand open endings with no answers, don’t watch it. But if you are looking for a little island of calm in the midst of madness, let yourself float away into this movie.