On The Silver Globe (1988)
Directed by Andrzej Żuławski
To describe a Żuławski film with words—“guttural,” “primitive,” “extreme” come to mind— is to undermine the actual experience. Buffeted by tidal waves of verbosity, an invasive, always-moving camera eye captures actors driven to maniacal states often bordering acute pleasure and pain, radical ecstasy. His films are a cinematic other, almost unbearable yet impossible to ignore, and certainly his own. On the Silver Globe, his fractured sci-fi magnum opus returning in a new digital restoration, is no exception.
The story takes place over several generations, and begins with three astronauts from Earth landing on another planet to start a new civilization. They shack up on a beach and produce an inbred tribe of headdress-clad raving pagans who take the single surviving astronaut to be a God. After establishing order, the Old Man disappears—however, another man from Earth, Marek, arrives to check out the scene. A faction of birdmen resembling fascists now enslaves the tribe, Marek is hailed as the resurrected God, and a battle against the ravens ensues—but the tribe becomes embittered with the new God, and he is eradicated via crucifixion. Yeah. Jam-packed with gaudy otherworldly low-budget costumes, frenzied monologues that spew into insanity (featuring citations from numerous philosophers spawning centuries, and religious texts), a trove of fire-laden powwows, a beach bearing victims impaled on telephone pole-sized spikes, and rituals resembling enormous orgies, this will keep your eyes peeled for the full 166 minutes.
It should be noted: upon the opening scene, we learn from a narrator that this is “a shred of a film… one-fifth of which is missing.” (The missing parts are vaguely narrated while we witness footage from the modern world—people on escalators, footage of city streets—abrupt yet resting respites from the delirium.) After luring Żuławski back to Poland from France with promises to fund the film (after his commercial success abroad), the People’s Republic shut down the project deeming it controversial, or, over budget, in 1977. Surely, the film is loaded with grandiose questions, specifically revolving around notions of: what does it mean to enforce an organized religion? an organized society? Most akin to Aleksei German’s last film, Hard to Be a God, On the Silver Globe boldly attacks totalitarianism and radical institution as pure apocalypse. Perhaps, in the context of the venomous state of current events, both here and abroad, it is the perfect time to reevaluate this masterwork of impending unpredictable doom. Samuel T. Adams (Opens July 29 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center; showtimes daily)