Sunday, March 18, 2012

Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Na srebrnym globie) at BAM

Andrzej Zulawski wound up back in Poland following the critical success of his first French film, That Most Important Thing: Love. On the Silver Globe (Na srebrnym globie) is an adaptation of an epic science fiction series titled, The Lunar Trilogy and was written by a great relative, Jerzy Zulawski. The Lunar Trilogy was released throughout Europe at the beginning of the 20th century though still to this day the writings have not been translated in English. The film version, On the Silver Globe was in production from from 1975 until the Polish government put a stop on the unfinished film in 1977. When it was shut down, a large percentage of the film was already complete though essential sequences had not yet been filmed. It wasn't until 1987 that Andrzej Zulawski was able to edit together the existing footage and complete a version of the forever unfinished film. In a fascinating and experimental move, Zulawski decided to narrate the scenes with no visual material and provide newly shot sequences of city streets and daily life in Poland. 

On the Silver Globe is a film about life cycles, permutations of those cycles and the inevitability of mankind building up false gods and eventually tearing those gods down to start anew. The story begins with three astronauts who are starting a new life on the moon. Marta and Thomas bring children into an alien landscape while Peter keeps a perpetual film diary of everything that is taking place. Zulawski sustains a reflexive perspective for the first third of the film. The characters are fully aware of Peter's hand held camera and frequently address the camera's gaze directly. The rhythm is naturally choppy and is full of quick and at times jagged cuts. Marta and Thomas eventually die and Peter is left alone continuing to document what is taking place with the primitive society that is now forming. 

In the following section of On the Silver Globe, Marek (Andrzej Seweryn), appears in an alien world of strange rituals and perplexing mysticism. His existence in this world speaks directly to a forlorn prophesy. Marek is treated as the messiah and leads a battle against massive bird like creatures called Sherns. The film becomes increasingly abstract and has a steady flow of philosophical and conflicted assertions. Part of this is due to the bizarre power that Sherns possess. They are creatures that do not speak though cause individuals to hallucinate and share innermost feelings, exposing personal weaknesses to the Sherns. The final part of the film entails the damaged relationship of Jack and Ava who are earth people that Marek knows. In a drug addled fit of rage and frustration, Jack goes to the alien land to see what has become of Marek just in time to see him brought to the point of oblivion by the same exact individuals who put him in a holy state of supreme power.

The artistry behind this film is overwhelmingly otherworldly and beautiful. Everything from the meticulously designed costumes, expansive sets, utterly unique locations to the music and cinematography; this is a film in a world of its own. Andrzej Korzynksi provides spacious and mysterious synthesizer layers that bleed right into the drenched atmosphere of wonder. Andrzej Zulawski moves the camera in unthinkable and feverish directions that build up with a greater intensity as the film draws to a close.

BAM screened an immaculate 35mm print of On the Silver Globe. It was one of the most visually beautiful screenings of a film I've ever attended. What astounded me the most was how absolutely vivid the color scheme actually is. I saw a different print of the film in January of 2008 at Anthology Film Archives and the colors were unbelievably murky in comparison to the print shown at BAM. It  has been completely clear that all DVD copies I've watched up until now have been unacceptable. That feeling is far more pronounced now knowing how amazing the film looks.  The print BAM screened contained a much wider color spectrum that jumped out in scene after scene. It was such a noticeable positive shift and so incredibly beautiful that I almost felt like I was seeing the film for the first time. The Mondo Vision release should be outstanding when it comes to light.