A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS
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(Jul 13, 2006)
Published in 1920, David Lindsay's first novel was credited by C.S. Lewis as a major influence on his and JRR Tolkien's work. Science fiction had been represented by the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells until that time; Lindsay's strange tale of sexual identity and existential angst propelled fantasy literature toward its modern form.
In 1970 an independent 35mm feature film was made of A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS. Distributed by Brandon Films on 16mm (before videotape was popular) as part of their underground film series, the film is available for the first time in 33 years in this expanded DVD version.
Monochrome (black and white) with color enhancement.
EXTRA FEATURE: Behind the scenes photographs and interview with the filmmaker.
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This student work never even tries to emulate the fantasy elements of the original. Instead, it focuses on what truly matters: the personalities and personal transformations of the characters, especially the main character Maskull. A lot had to be skipped or simplified in bringing this complex book to the screen, but I feel that the film team made good choices in what to keep and how.
It really helps to know the book before coming to this movie. That will help the viewer through some of the obscure moments (i.e., most of them), and give the viewer a chance to fill in with imagination what lacks in the austere scenery and effects. Even the black-and-white filming works well, especially when different color casts help the viewer identify changes across the strange world of Tormance.
It seems a little odd to realize that this 1970 artifact, with definite hippie-era influences, lies almost as close to the story's 1920 origin as to the current day. That just adds to its charm, though. Others might have trouble enjoying it, but I recommend this little gem to anyone already a fan of Lindsay's baffling book.
Still, this film is worth seeing just because of the very rare beast it is. This is made by a filmmaker with a single, laser-focused vision, showing that even "impossible" subjects ought to be attempted. It's very refresing compared to the assemble-line high-budget productions churned out by the pro studios today.
The film should not only be watched, but be studied by all young filmmakers who have the courage to experiment and risk filming a work as complex as "The Voyage". And who can appreciate the low-low-budget decisions and learn from the director's choices in attempting to solve the hundreds of problems in realizing such a project. There are many super moments - the director portrays many of the essential scenes in a beautifully metaphoric form -and there are, naturally, a number of weaknesses and deficits. (The animation and stunts, for instance, are hamstrung by the restrictions of budget and the pre-digital era.) So the viewer searching solely for a Hollywood extravaganza alà Lord of the Rings will need to watch the film through different spectacles. It is as a student production to be enjoyed, and low-budget directors of films can learn a lot from the successes and short-comings of the film.
though understandably lacks the detail and nuances but effective. lets be fair how do you film two new primary colours? well worth watching.
if film students, on a low budget can do this in the seventies why isnt it being made now? a job for Arronovsky or Gilliam or a joint venture.
wouldnt that be something!