A colony ship leaves earth. It bumps into some debris which knocks it off course. It wanders out into the outer dark of the solar system. So far, so sci-fi, and a little ho-hum.
It’s in the later, more demented, part of this movie that the original, haunting vision of the epic length poem on which this is based (you heard that right) comes through. Aniara, like all good sci-fi, uses outer space to explore our inner one. What it finds is the colossal gulf between people, the utter tininess of the human spirit in the face of both the universe and the distance between us and the ones we love. As the escalating madness of Aniara’s society adrift unfolds within the ship, space looms like judgement outside. In one shot the tiny fleck of humanity floats away from the glaring sun. There are no stars in the cosmos around it, only an endless blackness – all creation as a stifling, inky prison. It’s a relentless, harrowing, and deeply upsetting vision. A piece of advice: don’t watch this if you’re looking for something to cheer you up.
The drama can come across as strangely flat, on occasion, but Aniara is worth watching for its uncompromising adherence to its message: we are all very, very small, and no amount of navel-gazing will change this.