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Published by David Carter on 2008/3/23 (5240 reads)
Directed by Carlos Atanes
Review by David Carter
Released by Fort Knox
Running Time: 116 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Stereo Spanish/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: None
Trailer Online: Yes
Science fiction cinema is not as cut and dry as you might believe. When you hear the term, the “big two” immediately spring to mind: STAR TREK and STAR WARS. Though they are the most famous, they aren’t necessarily a representative sample of all the genre has to offer. Sci-fi can contain elements of horror (ALIEN), action (STARSHIP TROOPERS), or drama (BLADE RUNNER). One of the least common but often most impressive types of sci-fi is the cerebral sci-fi film; films like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and SOLARIS. Such films don’t deal with aliens or spaceships, but focus more on the human mind and it’s expansion rather than new technologies. Spanish director Carlos Atanes’ latest effort PROXIMA definitely falls into that latter category. It has been making the international film festival rounds recently and is also available on DVD.
Tony is a life-long science fiction fan who has recently had a streak of bad luck because of it. His girlfriend Natalia has left him because he’d rather play video games than spend any time with her. The video store he owns is forced to go out of business due to lack of interest because he only carries sci-fi videos. At this low point in his life Tony’s friend Lucas convinces him to go a sci-fi convention in Madrid. The enticement to go is that reclusive author Felix Cadecq will be speaking about his latest work Welcome to Proxima. Cadecq stuns the packed auditorium by announcing he’s retiring from writing because he’s found that reality is more inventive than his sci-fi could ever be. He then proceeds to tell them of a man named The Messenger who has taught him that the Earth will be destroyed soon and that all inhabitants should leave as soon as possible. His CD Welcome to Proxima is an instruction guide to traveling to the next closest planet without using a spacecraft. Cadecq is booed off stage as his former fans laugh at his insane ramblings. Tony listens to him, however, and after listening to the CD he knows that what he says is true. After his first attempt to reach Proxima, Tony is convinced that Cadecq is telling the truth and travels to meet the Messenger. His visit is cut short when Natalia and Lucas “rescue” him, claiming he’s been brainwashed. Tony doesn’t think so, however, and he soon finds that Proxima may be closer than he thought.
PROXIMA is ostensibly a science fiction film, but its heart is more human than alien or machine. It’s a story about a life-long dreamer confused about the loss of his stability and his love-hate relationship with his obsessions. When he makes it to Proxima (not a spoiler, it’s depicted on the DVD cover) he realizes that a life in the stars isn’t exactly what he wanted. In fact all of the inhabitants of Proxima all regret making the trip; so much so that they spend their days alternately trying in vain to return to Earth or to kill themselves. Atanes’ film is a harsh critique of escapism, a trait inherent in most sci-fi, and of “normalcy” in the sense of living without imagination. Tony is ultimately shown to be the only character of any value since he is able to combine both traits without letting one overtake the other. PROXIMA might prove to be a bit slow and overlong for some of you, but most viewers will be intrigued by the story so much that the close to two hour run time flies by.
I was unable to find out how to purchase PROXIMA, but it’s well worth putting in the effort to find a copy. A film this intelligent is rare, and sadly such intelligence is even more rare in modern sci-fi films. Atanes is one of the few directors who can mix the surreal and real together and have neither seem out of place. He is quickly becoming a favorite here at Film Fanaddict and you’re encouraged to check him out as soon as you get the chance.
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