“Hell is other people,” goes the Sartre quote, a thought that gets thoroughly examined in the Swedish Aniara, a bleak, gorgeous science-fiction film in which the sun-scarred residents of a climate-ravaged Earth board a massive spaceship to begin a “happy, new life on Mars.” Naturally, a collision promptly knocks the ship off course, sending it drifting into the infinite void. It isn’t long until food dwindles, suicides rise, and the ship’s holodeck—which envelops passengers in visions of a lost, bucolic Earth—becomes dangerously overtaxed, leaving Mimaroben (Emelie Jonsson) and her lover Isagel (Bianca Cruzeiro) trapped in a slow-motion apocalypse, questioning the point of both survival and hope. (One of the ship’s astronomers, played by Anneli Martini, puts the ship’s doom in perspective by reminding Mimaroben of “the utter nonsense of living.” “It’s all so peripheral, what we’re doing,” she says. “It’s so futile, so meaningless.”)
Based on Harry Martinson’s 1956 poem, and with echoes of Solaris and The Three-Body Problem, Aniara follows the increasingly miserable ship into the black abyss, where nothing really matters—but really, how’s that any different from living on Earth? For those onboard with its relentless, brutal fatalism, Aniara is remarkable—but for everyone else, here’s a reminder that Rocket Racoon and Captain Marvel are also on movie screens at the moment, exploring a cosmos that offers slightly less existential terror.
Aniara screens now through May 23 at Grand Illusion.