Aniara Magnolia Pictures

Aniara is the best science fiction film of the decade. It was written and directed by the Swedes Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja, released in 2018, and is based on a 1956 poem of the same name by Harry Martinson. Set in the not too-distant future, the film is about a massive Mars-bound spaceship that operates much like a luxury cruise ship. It's called Aniara. The craft contains malls, bars, restaurants, recreation centers, and a virtual reality room that soothes travellers by immersing them in images of pristine nature. The Earth at this time has been totally devastated by climate change. A better life is to be had on colonized Mars. The trip takes three weeks. But during the journey, something very bad happens. Space junk hits the ship and knocks it off course. The accident forces the captain to dump the fuel that could correct the ship's course. The Aniara then begins to drift out of the solar system and into deep space.

Month by month, year by year, decade by decade, we watch the ship's social order disintegrate into totalitarianism, a variety of sex and death cults, and, finally, a despair that no words or even images can describe. Out here where empty space only becomes more empty space, no one can hear the screams, the cries, the suicides of the doomed crew members and passengers. This is the cinema of that young Swede with anger-management issues, Greta Thunberg. This is her decade of depressing science fiction: Ad Astra (boomer madness in space), High Life (doomed prisoners in deep and lifeless space), Interstellar (shopping for a new home in space), and Cargo (illusions of happiness in space).

Aniara is indeed our own planet. It has been knocked off course by capitalist growth, which knows no end and cannot be reversed because its directives face no serious political challenge. We humans can only sit and wait for inevitable death in our malls and cars and spas and religious fanaticism.

During a Christmas dinner, a relative of mine (Uncle J) was shocked to learn that I had no pension plan. He is a boomer. He has no idea that many in the generations below him have real and profound existential feelings about climate change. For us, it's not something that can be fixed with a little American can-do-ism. Uncle J's generation could plan accordingly for a future that looked much the same as the past. Mine, Generation X, was the first that could not plan on that kind of future. The more the ecological deterioration of our present became our past, the less it looked like the kind future you place plans of pensions, RV trips on interstate highways, and retirement paradises in Florida on.

In the 1970s, Gen X entered a world of environmental movements, acid rain, the "Crying Indian," and Marvin Gaye bemoaning "Mercy, Mercy Me"; in the 1980s, there was Chernobyl, the greenhouse effect, and the ozone hole. By the 1990s, there was global warming; in the 2000s, we began witnessing rising oceans, a multiplication of extreme weather events, diminishing polar ice, and collapsing ice sheets. At the end of the second decade of the new century, it seems like madness to be worried about pension plans. For the past 50 years, we have lived in an environment that has only deteriorated. If this is our only past (and it's even much, much more so for Gen Z), then this can only be our future. More of the same. More of things just getting worse. More Aniara.