On the Silver Globe Review
It is rather fitting that a totalitarian government would shut down a film about looking for freedom. It is even more predictable when the director is the troublesome Andrzej Zulawksi and the country involved was Communist Poland. Zulawski was adapting his great uncle's science fiction novels, but the changing of the guard in the Polish government led to a purge against his film which was viewed as a thinly veiled cry for freedom. Unlike Third Part of the Night, the government seemed to understand the director's intentions this time as despite the alien setting Zulawski is concerned with a world sprung up out of mystic and material needs that becomes analogous to our own.
It all begins with the discovery of satellite salvage that contains video evidence of the astronauts' journey to another planet. The intention of their trip is to discover freedom, but soon the small band are finding the new world deadly. They travel over the sea to a deserted land where they begin to breed with Marek siring offspring. Soon a new culture is developing and the crew start thinking about their origins and looking for meaning. Marek leaves the remaining crew and he goes on a quest that lasts many years before he finally returns to the new civilisation as an old man. On his return he discovers that a tribe has grown up and that he has become revered as their creator. After watching this tape, Earth sends a politician, Jacek, to visit this new world and he becomes a new messiah for the people who have now developed mortal enemies in beings who have developed out of birds, the Shernes. He enjoys his status as living deity but he begins to become more aware of his physical needs and less like the god his people think he is. He leads military campaigns of his tribe overseas to defeat the Shernes and on return he rejects the religion built out of his and Marek's humanity because it has become cruel and obsessed with possessions. When he tries to lead his people away from material things they revolt.
On The Silver Globe is incomplete due to the suspension of the shooting of the film in 1978 when the Polish Government intervened. This version was created some ten years later by Zulawski who edited together the parts of the negative he could find and covered lost or incomplete footage with narration of what was supposed to have been shot. This patched up version of the film is still rough though and the narrative will be one that many viewers find difficult to follow. The added narration helps a little with continuity and it gives the project the voice of the director himself and the extra dimension of the fraught background to the making of the film. The voiceover creates the impression of the movie being as much a journal as sci-fi and this idea is strengthened by the film's conclusion with Zulawski reflected in a shop window as he recalls the closing down of his film. This compromised structure leaves the story to be driven by a dream-like logic that presumably would have been less of a feature if the project had been properly completed. This means the film can be said to ramble and relies on the viewer to piece together a lot of what they see but, being a Zulawksi film, the narrative is less important anyway as the director searches for images and sequences to make the audience feel and think rather than to tell a particular story.
And what images and sequences they are! Where other directors can be accused of lacking a purpose, Zulawski has plenty to say and his impact on the viewer is huge in the imagination at play here. If the science fiction element is a little home made then this gives On The Silver Globe the element of everyday parallel that is clearly intended with a story where human colonists end up compared to Moses and Jesus, and where structures of power and belief resemble the Church and State. In the scope of the story, the director alludes to the biblical and the historical with Jacek leading crusades overseas to civilise the savages, and he also works within the metaphysical in considering what makes a man in terms of his faith, his physicality and his intellect. Zulawksi is admirably ambitious in attempting to discuss the human condition, the nature of power, and the institution of religion. If you can ignore the rough condition the film is in and you can give yourself over to the passion of the director you will find On The Silver Globe to be compelling and revelatory.
On The Silver Globe is flawed, and like most of Zulawski's films too dense to fully decode in one sitting. Censorship has robbed us of what this film could have been, but it remains a superb sci-fi allegory about man's battle from beast to believer, and from believer back to beast.
This is not an officially sanctioned release according to the Zulawksi forum here and it is possibly a port of the Polish DVD with added subs. This is a very sharp transfer but there is evidence of regular artefacting, print damage, dot crawl and a very murky contrast in the darker scenes. The bluish silver look of the film has been rendered well but the aspect ratio is not the intended 1.66:1, and the single layer disc is not anamorphic. The sound is less than dynamic with some distortion and a flatness which fails to capture the atmosphere of some of the film's settings. The optional English subtitles are clear to read if not always well translated or grammatical.
The disc art is unimpressive and the menu is a static amateurish affair, there is the usual scene select, subtitle and play movie options. The only extras on the disc are filmographies for leading cast and director, and a list of existing POLART releases with cover art.
A mind bending piece of cinema that is as vibrant as all of the work of this particular director. This is at least a region free option to own a "lost" film even if the disc is rather ordinary and of dubious origin. The film is a tremendous burst of passion and a thoroughly vital viewing experience.
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