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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 05.04.10] Hungary movie review scifi drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Roland Vranik
Writers: Roland Vranik / András Barta
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 7 out of 10

[Editor's note: We also have another review Rick wrote from August of 2009 here]

Post-apocalyptic worlds are often of familiar type – dusty wasteland, warring tribes and a desperate struggle for survival. While anyone who has read The Road or played Fallout 3 will know this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's a shame that the broad possibilities the genre opens up have been pushed out by this convention. Transmission harks back to a time when authors like JG Ballard and John Wyndham took a What If? approach, removing or adding factors that send society on a new course, exploring the possibilities thrown up on the way. Furthermore it does so with real style.

The premise of Transmission is simple at first glance: data can no longer be transmitted. There is no TV, no radio, no computers. People charge batteries from makeshift generators, but there is no national grid. Food production has become localised, the coastal city the film is set in relying on fishing. Communication is at its most basic, an area of the city called “The Wall” used as a meeting place to put up notices and pictures of lost loved ones. But while isolated, people are well-fed, safe and unafraid. Just bored and listless.

The nature of the disaster is revealed slowly, the questions it raises tackled in the sparse conversations of a slow-paced, restrained film. While most of the holes in the theory are explained at some point, its very nature is rather unscientific and precludes a full explanation. Speculation is minimal, but interestingly is mainly along the lines of the phenomenon being caused by mass hypnosis or delusion. This Ballardian touch fits in well with the haunting setting of concrete precincts, tower blocks and tatty modernist houses, and also the dazed, resigned air of the city's populace. When one character begins to obsessively build a wall of concrete blocks in his garden to distract from his insomnia the connection is complete.

Disappointingly, this strange, dreamlike world becomes the setting for a simple murder mystery tale that is as slight as it is drawn-out and bears no relevance to the unusual world it is set in. The disaster is relegated to background setting as this uninspiring story unfolds, and while you wait for the two to connect up in some intriguing and unforeseen way they never do. It's the only flaw in a film that gets pretty much everything else right, but it's a big one, leaving Transmission's beautiful direction and original premise hanging in a void of irrelevance.

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

This film is slow at times but I loved it. Highly recommended.

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