Friday, August 11, 2017


Pre-title cards tell us that Jupiter has many moons, one of which is thought to have conditions that might allow life. Its name is Europa. Fade in to a freight train carriage hauling live chickens as well as a crammed in number of Syrian refugees on their way to find life in the Europa we have down here. They reach the drop point, get on boats and buzz into a surprise reception from border control who fire on them. One young man, Aryan, who has lost contact with his father in the confusion gets to the European side and runs until stopped by an immigration officer who fires three shots into the boy's vital organs and leaves him dead for later retrieval.

We linger on the corpse sadly but then notice that drops of his blood are forming bubbles and rising to the air. Then Aryan's body itself rises slowly over the forest canopy as he sluggishly copes with being alive in the first place and that he is flying. Few of the fleeing refugees witness this, having their own survival a little further centre stage.

Next we meet a jaded doctor fallen from professional favour, waking up in his small, boxy Budapest flat. He gets up with his second cigarette, heads off to give some ill-gotten banknotes to his girlfriend, a nurse at a local hospital and then to the refugee camps to do some rounds with the new arrivals. Here he meets Aryan on a trolley, dead but for the vital signs and then the levitation. Dr Stern is astounded beyond words just long enough to know a good thing when he sees it and whisks the lad away from the confusion of the camp and into the city of lights, possibilities and sheer exploitation as the atheist doctor is already planning on squeezing the religious out of their hard-earned.

But the spectre of a wonder has power and that might just include a touch of redemption. "we live horizontal," says Dr Stern and, "at some point we stopped looking up." We have just seen him take a moment to look on the star filled night sky. He sees stars, including a shooting one, but they are just stars. We have also seen him reach for a sincerity beyond his attempt at redemption through money (no spoilers) and it is through his encounter with Aryan. 

For Aryan's part the picture is a little confused. He says at one point that he has his own purpose like everybody else but doesn't name it. He has powers to go with the levitation but we only see them in a strange scene involving a neo-nazi. And it is strange in that apart from the cinematic virtuosity of it the scene seems to serve little purpose beyond demonstrating Aryan's ability to control his power. It goes on for much longer than it should, seems to have come from nowhere, involves no redemption of the bigot and the powers are not seen again. Otherwise Aryan is short of superheroism. He doesn't soar through the skies like Superman, he wades in the air or controls his falls, seemingly doing so for the purposes of creating awe.

That's the bit that had me frowning. Dr Stern's development seems increasingly to be influenced by Aryan's power and the suggestion of his immortality and this is allowed by the film to suggest that we buy into the notion of the miracle. While the magical realist premise of the dispossessed alien having superpowers impressed me the maturation back into the desiccated realm of faith alienated me. The film doesn't quite leave things open enough to keep them interesting.

That's a shame as the piece really does have a lot of charm in its characterisation and evocation of a kind of contemporary earthly hell. The sheer skill of the many winsome Steadicam shooting and one of the best car chases I've ever seen (one shot from the point of view of the pursuit vehicle's bumper bar!) and the levitation is always purely beautiful. But at a time when so much of cinema works such visual miracles as a matter of course I cannot take this leap of faith.

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