Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Somnus: Space is Dangerous and Confusing
space, nobody can hear you scratch your head in confusion. That is rather
fortunate for this science fiction debut, which seems to be missing several key
connective scenes. Alas, it may well be an example of vision outstripping
budget constraints. At least Chris Reading scores some style points during the
course of Somnus (trailer here), which opens
today in select cities.
will be Harry Emerson’s final mission as a space freighter captain, so we know
what that means. Obviously he is doomed (apparently along with the entire human
race), but he is so determined to return to Earth, he will do everything
strictly according to policy to deny his employers any pretext for extending
his service. His lieutenant Charles Finch has all the ambition he lacks, but
they mostly get along. They both find Rupert the engineer a little odd, but he
seems to have a rapport with Meryl, the ship’s HAL 9000-like computer.
has been acting a bit erratic lately, but everyone seems to be reassured by the
openness of her quirks. They do not know for a fact she caused the death of
Paula, a late crew member we never really get to meet, but deep down all three
harbor their suspicions. Of course it is hard to stay in denial when the space
residue hits the fan. Unfortunately, the crew goes from the frying pan into the
fire when Meryl forces them down on the asteroid Somnus for repairs. The
woodland scenery is rather pleasant, but the locals are not very hospitable.
Somnus was clearly conceived
as a big picture sf epic, but there are large gaping holes in its canvas,
starting with the non sequitur prologue, in which a British scientist is
entrusted with an apocalyptic secret in 1952 that is never subsequently
referenced. We are told full scale galactic Armageddon also happens off camera,
so we can probably assume the double-secret Macguffin fell into the wrong
hands, but seriously, work with us here. As a result, Reading’s intended
takeaways remain murky at best.
the other hand, the practical effects rendered in Somnus should please old school enthusiasts. Tp his credit, Reading
conveys a vivid sense of the freighter’s claustrophobic clamminess. He also
gets good work from his primary cast, especially Marcus McMahon as the decent
but increasingly detached Emerson and Rohit Gokani as the colorful yet
down-to-earth Rupert. Meryl Griffiths is also quite effective as the scoldy,
unpredictable voice of her computer namesake.
Patrons of independent science fiction in the
tradition of the Fantasia festival will go into Somnus wanting to like it and most likely leave frustrated that it
did not click for them. There just seems to be stuff missing from it. It might
just be another misadventure from the indie filmmaking trenches. Yet, there is
something about it that lingers in the back of your head, so we’d really like
to see Reading take another swing for the fences. Hardcore genre fans might
want to support Somnus just for the
sake of what could come next, but it is an ambitious failure. It opens today
(9/9) in select theaters and notably screens next Wednesday (9/14) at the Sioux Falls Arts Council, with Reading taking audience Q&A, before its VOD
release on October 4th.
Labels: British Cinema, Sci-Fi films