Monday, 7 May 2018

Whispering Star (5 Stars)

Other reviewers have called this film Sion Sono's Space Odyssey. I understand the connection, but I find it has more in common with "Dark Star". There are no talking bombs, but there's a malfunctioning computer and total nihilism in the blackness of space.

Yoko Suzuki is an android delivering mail to human colonies on planets in different galaxies throughout the universe. It's a 26 year round trip. Her only companion is the ship's computer, 6‑7 MAH Em. They don't often talk because the computer is defective. It has difficulty telling the difference between what's inside and outside the ship. It mistakes the flies trapped in the light fittings for meteorites and keeps changing course to avoid them.

The technology is very retro. The space ship must be travelling at many times the speed of light to get from one galaxy to another, but its outer casing is made of wood. Yoko uses a reel-to-reel tape recorder for her ship's log. It's not something that Captain Kirk would approve of.

Do you remember tape decks like that? I had one when I was young. I recorded my favourite albums on them for a non-stop mix. I stopped using the tapes when cassette players were invented, but now even cassettes are out of date. In the eyes of Sion Sono the old devices will return.

After 15 years in space Yoko gets curious what she's delivering. She opens some of the parcels, and the contents confuse her. There are pencils, sketches, cigarettes and photographs. Why are humans so illogical? Why do they send parcels like these which won't reach their destination for 20 years or more? The reaction to the parcels confuses her. Some people are happy when they receive a delivery, while others burst into tears.

The tragedy in the film is the state of mankind. Colonies have been founded throughout the universe, but mankind is dying out. Wherever Yoko delivers a package there's evidence that there used to be large civilisations, but now only a handful of people live on each planet. It's claimed that mankind is dying out because humans have such a short lifespan, less than 100 years, but that can't be the reason. 100 years is long enough to procreate. It's more likely that mankind has lost its motivation. Technology has gone so far that there's nothing left to invent. If there's nothing left to achieve, what's the point in creating a new generation?

Is there an answer? Is there a way to save mankind? If there is, the film doesn't tell us what it is. All we see is a desperately lonely universe. This is Sion Sono at his coldest and most depressing. "Whispering Star" has been aptly filmed in black and white. Unlike in his other films there is no violence, but this is still the most aggressive film he's ever made. This is the universe after violence has ceased. Nobody is fighting any more because nobody cares.

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