Sci-fi comes in two sizes, The Lucas CGI or The Tarkovsky Mind Game. The first is action packed and expensive. The second doesn’t leave the space station. Dante 01 is one of these.

In order to disguise the claustrophobic nature of the scenario, the director and set designer baffle the viewer with techno whizpoppery, machines with screens that do stuff, mainly connected to surveillance, since this is a locked down movie, not another franchise of Star Trek, or The Matrix in miniature.

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Dante 01 is a psychiatric detention centre, orbiting a hell fire star, where the most dangerous nut cases are incarcerated. There are only seven prisoners, with two doctors and three security guards keeping an eye on them. The medics are intellectual, highly qualified, deadly serious and incapable of smiling – would you in a place like this?

Enter, via an Earth-to-Dante shuttle, Elisa (Linh Dan Pham), a Chinese-French scientist, who wants to try out new techniques on the inmates. She brings with her a man with no name (Lambert Wilson) – later dubbed Saint George to acknowledge his shoulder tattoo – who was rescued as the sole survivor of a damaged spaceship and conveniently blamed for murdering his entire crew. Saint George doesn’t speak. He appears to be in pain and has trouble walking. There is something odd about him, not least his healing abilities, which include instant resurrection.

As with Andrei T’s Solaris, you haven’t a clue what’s going on, except Saint George may be a Christ clone (if so, why?), reminiscent of the space intruder in Sunshine, or even that nasty creature responible for John Hurt’s stomach ache in Alien. Whatever he/it is, nothing will be the same again. St G has powers. Where do they come from? Is he possessed? Is he a force for good? What is where? What is anything?

Marc Caro, co-writer/director of Delicatessen and The City Of Lost Children, is no slouch in the imagination stakes. However, with little money and a skeleton cast, he’s limited. Being French, he intellectualises the end of things and floats away on zero gravity. The film sets up an interesting situation, like the pilot of a TV series, and then leaves you, as it were, at the beginning.

In the year whatever, everyone is bald. The prisoners wear yellow jump suits and humour has been eliminated from their DNA. The bad guys regulate themselves, while the good guys watch them in case they try to kill each other. When this happens, they intervene before it’s too late (occasionally). The scientists/doctors consider their work to be vital for the future of psychoanalysis, while the crazy killers go on being crazy and go on killing. And what of holy George? Even his fellow nutters can’t make head nor tail of him.

Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2008
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A new arrival with alien powers upsets the equilibrium amongst prisoners in a deep space psychiatric detention centre.
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Director: Marc Caro

Writer: Marc Caro, Pierre Bordage

Starring: Lambert Wilson, Linh Dan Pham, Dominique Pinon, Gérald Laroche, Simona Maicanescu, Yann Collette, Bruno Lochet, François Levantal, François Hadji-Lazaro, Lotfi Yahya Jedidi

Year: 2008

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


Sci-Fi 2008

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