5000 Space Aliens


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

5000 Space Aliens
"A visionary piece of cinema, 5000 Space Aliens takes a simple idea and uses it to drill down into something deep rooted in the human psyche."

There are 5,000 known space aliens currently on planet Earth, we are informed at the start of this distinctive piece of cinema. This is the only film to feature footage of all of them. For our safety, each space alien is shown for only one second. [Editor’s note: the images used with this review have been specially treated to render them safe for longer viewing.]

In case you struggle with arithmetic, observing 5,000 space aliens for one second each takes a little over 83 minutes – i.e. almost the entire running time of this film. There’s no room for anything else. No doubt watching such a thing will sound like Hell to some viewers, and perhaps they had best stay away. If you’re up for the challenge, though, you might be surprised by how involving it is, whether you choose to switch off and let it wash over you, or pay strict attention, making sure that you would know what you were dealing with if you should ever meet one of these space aliens in the flesh.

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Are these really all the space aliens on Earth? Probably not. They’re mostly white, and whilst one can see how that could be an advantage when it came to accessing certain types of institutions and power structures, by the same token one would expect to see a lot more East Asian ones. One would also expect a greater variety of words in the background – those we glimpse are almost all in Latin characters, and usually in English. The clear conclusion is that, internationally, agencies have not been very cooperative about sharing their space alien data. At least, that’s the sort of theory you will probably find yourself coming up with as you watch one image after another.

Those words tell a story of their own. Though there’s barely time to catch them, you will start to notice common themes. There’s a good deal about gravitation and some stuff about sulphur. Some of the images look quite old, dating back to the 1920s or even the late 1800s. Are these space aliens believed to be still active? Usually there is not time to take in the whole image; the eye is skilfully redirected by the positioning of figures or splashes of colour on the screen. Nevertheless you may note that some figures appear more than once. There are, however, a handful of images featuring multiple figures, so you need not worry that you’re being short-changed.

The quality of the images varies too. Straining to make sense of them, you may find that you start to recognise some of them. Do these space aliens include people you know? More disturbingly, will you – as I did – spot something which looks like your own face amongst them? Some are so blurred as to be practically unrecognisable. Towards the end, such images are suddenly interrupted by a clip of clear photographic quality: a young blond woman sitting on the floor of her living room who looks up with a friendly smile as if she knows the camera operator but doesn’t realise that her space alien nature is going to be exposed.

The whole thing is set to a pulsing electronic score written by director Scott Bateman himself. It’s brilliantly balanced with the images so as to create a sense of pace. At times it slows down and one gets the distinct impression that the images are changing more slowly, but they are not. This effect makes it possible to take in the whole film without flagging; in fact, you may be surprised by how quickly the time passes.

A visionary piece of cinema, 5000 Space Aliens takes a simple idea and uses it to drill down into something deep rooted in the human psyche. It’s a film which will hold you in the moment and give you a lot to think about afterwards. Appropriately for a piece of science fiction, it also has a visionary aspect. In the future, will anybody be willing to watch a video for more than one second?

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2023
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Meet 5000 space aliens in 5000 seconds.
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Director: Scott Bateman

Year: 2021

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: US


Streaming on: Amazon

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