grandly hyped “Red Book” would sound a little alarming, even if the Neuroo-X
gaming corporation were not partly based in China. Supposedly, the immersive
virtual reality device makes in-game time feel subjectively longer. In theory,
this should prevent gamers from missing out on the real world around them. As
is often the case, practical reality is a different matter. That is probably
why the company’s nebbish founder halted his work on the Red Book project right
before his untimely death. His Japanese widow will try to follow the clues he
left behind in Julian M. Grunthal & Samuel Schwarz’s Polder (trailer
which screened at the 2015 Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival.
have to give credit to any film that starts with a John Clute quote: “Polder:
an enclave of compressed reality demarcated by boundaries from the surrounding
world.” It also serves as a handy explanation of the inelegant looking title.
As the film opens, we meet Marcus through a digital imprint of his personality,
which also introduces us to the key figures in his life: the childhood friends
he cofounded Neuroo-X with, as well as his widow Ryuko and son Walterli.
the accident, Ryuko become something of a basket case, neglecting Walterli
while she obsesses over the heavily encrypted laptop that presumably holds the
secret to everything. It turns out the code to crack is of a somewhat different
nature. Regardless, Marcus will reveal much to her from beyond the grave.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of Neuroo-X technology, virtual threats have
very real world ramifications. Following an attack by a mythical Japanese witch
on Walterli, Ryuko will place him in a specially protected polder to
recuperate. Of course, there are plenty more revelations to come regarding the
nature of the game and ostensible reality.
have been diving into video games and coming out the other side of normalcy
ever since the original Tron. As a
result, a lot of Polder’s big twists
are practically mandated conventions. However, there are a number of widely
inventive scenes along the way. Grunthal & Schwarz’s aesthetic choices are
also unusually daring. Frankly the initial twenty-minutes or so are
deliberately hard to follow. However, once they shift focus from Marcus to
Ryuko, Polder really starts to click.
In fact, an observer character within the film essentially acknowledges as
Danish-Japanese Nina Fog has by far the most substantial and complex role in
the film, but she makes the most of it. As outlandish as the narrative is, she
makes Ryuko’s arc of empowerment quite powerful to behold. Somehow she perfectly
reconciles the protective mother and grieving wife side of her persona with an
existential action figure. She commands the film, but young Pascal Roelofse is
also quite winning as Walterli.
represents a new look for cyberpunk, but it
works. The hills are definitely not alive with the sound of music. Nor is the
fact that the Swiss-German company also operates in China an insignificant
detail. Indeed, when we peak into that side of the business, it is quite
consistent with what we know of human rights in the socialist state. It is a
strange film, but the work of Fog and production designer Gerald Damovsky
really sell it. Recommended for fans of cyber-based science fiction, Polder should have more stops ahead on
the genre fest circuit after its screening at this year’s Ithaca International
Fantastic Film Festival.
Labels: Ithaca Fantastic '15, Sci-Fi films, Swiss Cinema