Fantasia 2011: ‘Love’ lacks depth
Written by William Eubank
Directed by William Euback
Love gets off to a rocky start, testing the audience’s attention and commitment with empty images and weak narrative progression. Long after the story of a lone astronaut suddenly cut off from mission control has taken off, there is never a true sense that the film has even begun. We are never quite thrust into the narrative, and it’s as much as about half way through the film that we’re made to we realize that somehow things have progressed and long, lonely years have passed. We never get a strong sense of our protagonist or his small space shuttle. The only consistent image of the film is a round window looking down on earth. It becomes a mainstay, a point of obsession and reckoning that holds the many dis-ambiguous images of this film together.
The vague connection between the distant past of the Civil War and the height of contemporary ingenuity offered in the film fails to elicit strong feelings. As a concept, our treatment of man as a machine is fascinating. The astronaut, who has become so fully dependent on technology that his only contact with humanity is through pre-recorded messages and a computerized mission control, seems at first glance far removed from the military agent of the past. It’s a shame they could not fully capitalize on that theme, as the film’s central elliptical tangents into memories and dreams adopt an empty music-video aesthetic. One immediately wonders how a filmmaker like Terrence Malick can seem so easily to find so much strength in a beautiful image, where those who attempt to follow in his footsteps come so easily to dead ends.
The film’s vagueness does occasionally contribute to a sense of tension and conflict that keeps the viewer’s attention. There is a certain mystery born from the film’s strangely un-ambiguous imagery. However, for a film bent on exploring that hidden element of human nature that forces us forward as individuals and as a species, its imagery lacks its own thematic or narrative punch. The contrast of images in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey of a bone being thrown up into the air and a pen slowly floating in zero gravity manage to evoke a thousand questions and suggestions about human progress. That single moment contains more depth than all of this film.
Where Love works is when it focuses on being functional. When our protagonist is acting or reacting, the film is at its strongest. All too often the film relies on a journalistic monologue, meant to parallel the experience of a soldier in the civil war. The weakness of these sequences is that the images are functional without the overlying monologue, or are so detached from the words that they fail to create new meaning through contrast. When our astronaut tries to confront the silent mission control through a machine, the film suddenly comes alive, ripe with energy and emotion. These moments are few and far between, and are rarely enough to carry a scene all the way through.
Though this film’s very existence is reliant on the band Angels and Airwaves, and their score seems completely at odds with the film’s images. It is distracting and has no richness or rhythm. It seems out of touch with the action and is unfortunately one of the film’s weakest points.
Love will certainly find a niche audience, not in the science-fiction fan but in the Youtube romantic. The concept of “love” is an important one in the film, but alhough it does manage to skirt many half-baked cliches about romantic partnerships, its attempt to cover a much wider concept of the word never comes to fruition. Those taken by the commercial beauty of an ad for Levi’s jeans might find some worth in this film as they are able to find meaning and community in the impersonal world of branding. The only thing Love seems to be trying to sell is Angels and Airwaves, and the film attempts to brand them as a product for the outsider: suggesting a way of life motivated towards finding peace in a world so deeply ingrained in technology that we no longer know how to communicate. This is certainly novel, especially since most bands who attempt to do the same thing often focus on much “richer” themes like teenage angst and recreational drug use, but it doesn’t necessarily come to any conclusion that contains any more depth.
– Justine Smith