The Wild Blue Yonder

The Wild Blue Yonder

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

There are a lot of films out this summer which claim to be science fiction. This is the real thing. You'll often see films which purport to be fantasy, yet this is the most fantastic work of the imagination to grace our screens for years. And yet almost all of it is composed of documentary stock footage. It's Werner Herzog's exotic perspective, his poetic reimagining of the frontiers of our existence, which gives it an unexpected life, creating a truly compelling cinematic experience.

In a deserted shopping mall where wind turbines give out an otherworldly whine and abandoned trailers crumble in the dust, we meet a man who tells us he is from Andromeda. Everything else he is to tell us hinges on whether or not we accept this simple 'fact'. Is he an alien - one of a race of aliens who suck, as he explains it, and whose attempt to establish a colony on Earth has been a failure - or is he a delusional human being? Either way, the tale he has to tell is a fascinating one, and it is illustrated by some truly remarkable images. Footage of astronauts living and working in a zero gravity environment; snippets of mathematics and astronomy lectures; and images of the world beneath the sea ice of Antarctica all combine, accompanied by this improbable narration, to recount the story of a desperate journey into space.

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This is true science fiction in the sense that Herzog is using real scientific ideas to develop his story and, in turn, is using his story to educate viewers about some of the most exciting possibilities which science offers us. Although the story is a wild and unlikely one, the ideas underlying it are all sound and everything makes a sort of logical sense. Further to its credit, this isn't playing with those ideas just for the sake of it - Herzog never pursues science at the expense of character or narrative grace, and he develops his film into something much more than the sum of its parts. This is a story about human potential, an ode to the vast undiscovered beauty of our own planet, and an explanation of just why we need to preserve it. Though it is clearly, in its indirect way, addressing issues like pollution and global warming, it never pleads with us to join the environmentalist cause - rather, it shows us just how much we stand to lose.

This is not a film for everyone - some will find it difficult to relate to, others will find it far too slow - but then, few truly great films are. It's very much a big screen film, with visuals which will sweep you off your feet, so you would be well advised to see it at the cinema. It will also benefit from a good sound system, as the musical accompaniment to its long slow melodic scenes is extraordinarily beautiful, resonant and deeply evocative, creating an entirely new definition of space opera. The only thing remotely comparable is Kubrick's 2001. If you liked that, you'll love this. It can offer you an experience which really is out of this world.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2007
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In a deserted town we meet a man who tells us he is from Andromeda and proceeds to reveal CIA secrets about space exploration.
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Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Werner Herzog

Starring: Brad Dourif

Year: 2005

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: UK, US, France, Germany

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If you like this, try:

2001: A Space Odyssey