6 May 2009

Friday Midnight Movie

Silent Running (1972)

Don’t you just hate those reviews that compare other films to describe the film in question; you know the ones.., ‘its like this meets that’. In this case however I feel that a film-to-film comparison is the best way to kick start a look at Silent Running (1972). It’s like Star Wars (1977) meets The Shinning (1980). There I said it. But it’s true. Take the high concept elements of family friendly sci-fi’s such as Star Wars and mix that in with the 70s art-house and isolation of The Shinning and you can start to understand the type of movie Silent Running is. It feels like a film made by indie moviemakers who wanted to make a mainstream film. Like an indie movie doing an impression of a mainstream film if you will. The soundtrack (reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1967 The Graduate soundtrack), the tone, the editing, and the echo subtext are all reminiscent of 70s New Hollywood art-house. The design of the film in the form of the sets, the costumes, the robots, the gadgets, the spaceships, and space itself are right out of the mainstream sci-fi family-film handbook. It’s an intriguing, absorbing, and at times uncomfortable mix.

Silent Running is the story of one astronaut botanist (Bruce Dern) who tends the last remnants of earth’s vegetation, located in huge greenhouses in space, waiting for a time when they can return to earth to start the process of re-greening. When instructed to destroy the nature reserves and return to earth, Lovell (Dern), jettisons himself and the last remaining greenhouse into the depths of space, all alone except for a couple of helpful robot drones. 

This is a film about isolation. One man’s passion leading him to a sacrifice of extreme loneliness and therein his regrets and his search for comforting companionship amongst his robotic helpers. You really can relate to his drive to find means to create artificial friendships to stay off the madness; the type of madness that broke Jack in The Shinning. This is a great late night watch, and like many films of the period Silent Running doesn’t provide us with a comfortable ending. 

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