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In 2020, a group of wealthy Muscovites traveling to a complex of abandoned astrophysics, where rumors say they have enough power to stop the aging process.
Uploaded by: FREEMAN
March 25, 2023 at 07:41 AM
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A party in your mind
There's a scene in the original version of Rollerball (1975), where a group of wealthy revellers take some sort of ray gun to a stand of tall trees, burning, they light up the dusk. The atmosphere of this scene, a sort of unchecked wilfulness, a blithe feeling of supremacy and elitism, infuses much of Alexander Zeldovich's new film Target. The word ambitious has been floated around a lot to describe it, a critical euphemism for a film that overreaches, and yet I think it's a long, complex and excellent film that repays analysis and is definitely one to view several times.
The most obvious commentary in this movie, set in Russia of the future is about wealth distribution and squandering of assets. In 2006 a survey reported that the richest three people on the planet have more wealth than the poorest 48 countries. This was a phenomenon that maybe hadn't permeated its way back into Russia until perestroika, and the advent of the robber barons *ahem* I mean oligarchs. The peers of this realm revel in their situation, Roman in their outlook, gratified by the disparity. This is set out in a couple of particularly elegant scenarios (nets and earrings if you've seen the film).
Four of the privileged head off to a remote location where a gigantic quantum sieve, a relic of the space age, collects some sort of zero point energy that's meant to halt the ageing process. This is does, but it also seems to accentuate the trajectories of each character's fate. My thought at the end was that it's really a movie about love, but you have to work to get to that. I suppose it depends on whether you think Solyaris is a movie about love or about a strange shiny planet. I don't think the comparison is a bad one either. It's very boring to read almost every film on the festival circuit being labelled Tarkovsky-ian, but I very much felt that Target is cut from the same cloth as Solyaris.
There's a lot going on in the movie, action, science fiction, political commentary, romance, quotes from Lermontov. It's a colourful movie mostly filled with upbeat music, and three hours of it still felt short to me.
I found this film because I was interested in the script by also- novelist Vladimir Sorokin, and it wasn't disappointed. It turned out to be an intelligent, subtle, thoughtful screenplay that seems to have been treated with huge respect by the filmmakers. That's important because in terms of several elements including not just the scenario and dialogue but also the pacing and visual images, this is a very daring and ambitious piece of film.
"Targets" is very atypically structured and paced: it's long, and its narrative-- which while basically chronological does indulge in flashback scenes -- is not really straightforward. And I think that helps it in delineating and very original treatment of an age old fountain-of-youth theme.
We focus of several rich Muscovites who discover an area with special properties to stop again. And the central contradiction of their seeking of it is explored powerfully in several ways: these are people for whom life is empty, and they seek to prolong it by extending it. But they are treated very humanly, and so this strong satire on the emptiness of wealth and its centrality to modern life rarely ends up seeming mean-spirited. Instead the lives of the protagonists play out like several individual bleak and touching personal tragedies.
Occasionally, things pill slightly over the top, and often this is in the parodies of sections of TV shows, but become a bit too heavy- handed making the still-good point, but detract little from the whole.
While the pace is slow, the film to me never felt dull, but rather fascinating. Sincere and quietly-intense acting from all parties, interesting, significant camera-work, and sometime-shocking but always well-executed set pieces contribute to this.
Another important theme running parallel to the agonies introduced by eternal you is a pair of glasses that an distinguish good and evil, down to the physical good or evil properties of types of matter. And this invention ends up being of no use, scoffed when introduced to the public. Like eternal youth, the ability to know right from wrong with certainty is a long-sought and implausible goal that when attained reaps no helpful rewards.
An intelligent film whose ambition pays off. I'm sure that repeated viewings will reveal more nuances, which in itself is a sign of a success.