Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that today marks the release of the highly-acclaimed new Star Trek movie. And if you’re at all like me, you’ve spent the week watching sci-fi to get yourself in the mood. Also if you’re like me, France is probably not where you go first for your space opera fix. But perhaps Dante 01 will change that.
The whimsical romantic comedy Amelie made a big splash a couple of years ago, introducing French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet to the States. Jeunet had previously collaborated with a co-director named Marc Caro on the post-apocalyptic Delicatessen and the noirish fairy tale City Of Lost Children, both brilliant achievements. But after being demoted to Design Supervisor on the Jeunet’s underrated Alien Resurrection, Caro seemed to have disappeared – or at least, seemed to have been eclipsed by his former partner.
Then last year, he quietly released the sci-fi film Dante 01. IMDB gives the following plot summary:
Deep space, at the edge of the galaxy. The future. A new prisoner arrives on top security prison ship and psychiatric research unit Dante 01. Sole survivor of an encounter with an alien force beyond imagining, Saint Georges is a man possessed by inner demons, caught up in the battle to control the monstrous power within him. It’s a power that will infect the other highly dangerous occupants of Dante 01, jailers and prisoners alike, unleashing a violent rebellion that turns this terrifying, labyrinthine world upside down. In the otherworldly hell of the ship’s depths, through danger and redemption, each must journey to his very limits… each must confront his own Dragon.
Sounds amazing, right? Well, what IMDB failed to mention is that, to my utter dumbfounding, Dante 01 is probably the most explicitly Christian science fiction film ever made. Describing Saint Georges as a Christ-figure is like saying the same thing about John Coffey in The Green Mile – they aren’t simply characters with messianic traits, they are Jesus-with-another-face/body. Dante 01 functions as strict allegory, complete with an unbelievably cool (and unbelievably lengthy) interstellar crucifixion scene:
There are plenty of criticisms one could raise: the “symbolism” could have been more subtle (or subtle at all!), the character-development felt rushed in parts, and some of the effects showed signs of budgeting. BUT as far as sucker-punches go, this one takes the cake. So… can anything good come from France? The answer is yes, especially if by “good” you mean claustrophobic space-prison dramas with Gospel over-tones. Next stop – the final frontier!