Target:home

Target:home

Image: © Marcel Barion / Drop-Out Cinema eG

Marcel Barions "The last land" as time travel

When archaeologists stumble upon artifacts, determining their age is usually the first task to go. This is made more difficult when the artifacts themselves make their historicity the subject, because then the time of origin and the time theme can overlap each other. As soon as media become such an object of archaological research, the historical sign systems escalate.

Marcel Barions "The last country" can be seen as a cinematic treatise on such time invariances: The science fiction film, set in some future, is about spatial forward-backward movements that seem to mask temporal complications.

Adem (Torben Follmer) has escaped from a prison on some inhospitable planet. The film begins with him encountering a crashed small spaceship in the middle of an ash storm, with which he wants to escape the planet. However, Novak (Milan Pešl), a prison guard, has already caught up with him. Instead of arresting Adem, however, he flees with him from the inhospitable wasteland.

The Last Land

Target:home

Image: © Marcel Barion / Drop-Out Cinema eG

The nameless ship they use for this is almost unusable and needs permanent repairs. While Novak is engaged in this grim task, Adem is trying to find out what happened to the previous crew, what the strange plant parts he finds in the ship are all about, and what destination is associated with the word "direct and representative democracy "At home" he discovers in the computer logbook.

There are also various coordinates: those indicated by the navigation system, others found on a woman’s yellowed photograph, or those carved into the ship’s side by one of the former crew members.

While Adem discovers that the previous crew was apparently driven insane by an illness and as a result of this, a strange sound signal caused a "golden planet" lured, Novak is already setting course for this one, which quickly turns out not to be Earth. Whether the earth that is Adem’s destination exists at all seems to belong to the realm of the mythical.

Per aspera ad astra

"The Last Land" is a chamber play: in the confined space of the ship, the protagonists barely manage to avoid each other. From time to time, one of the two disappears into the engine shaft or into a storeroom to sleep, but always remains within earshot of the other.

At first, both have to struggle with their new environment: The heating can hardly be regulated, it gets brutally hot – a heat that the viewer gets to see in close-ups on the astronauts’ faces and bodies. Moreover, the navigation does not work properly; the course the ship takes after the escape is initially unknown.

However, Adem discovers log entries in the ship’s computer that give him clues about the previous mission – and that the crew has apparently abandoned the ship in the wake of a simmering conflict. Novak is gradually moving along the same spatial and psychological course as she is.

The dispute between the two over whether the ship was the unknown target or the fabled "Earth" The fact that the media star wanted to make himself a bit younger out of vanity and perhaps because of his now somewhat faded fame – with more or less resounding success. When Adem learns from the logs that the previous captain of the ship had made strange noises to a "golden planet" he suspects that Novak’s course will lead to the same undoing.

In fact, however, there is little concrete to be taken from the logs that could provide clarity. Some entries, as the table of contents shows, are unreadable; those that Adem reads are shown to the viewer only in detail, accentuating passages that do not bode well. The two astronauts’ attempt to reconstruct the ship’s past – through source work (Adem) or through a re-enactment of the previous mission (Novak) – cripples the narrative’s progress more than it advances it.

Like the characters, the viewer is frozen in a present without a comprehensible past and without a clear future. "The last country" is experienced in the here and now, takes place before the viewer’s eyes and, given the confinement of the capsule, turns him into an intimate witness to the two. The intermittent intercut images of the surrounding space seem like establishing shots, meant to show where the traveling party is at any given moment; however, in stark contrast to the aimlessness of the capsule, they are then more like images of directionlessness.

Siren chants

This odyssey as a fable of the film finds its equivalent on several aesthetic levels at once. The rudimentary story, rarely enriched with illuminating information by their dialogues, uses the background of the science fiction genre to unfold its temporal and spatial enigma. It is a departure into the unknown, set in a distant future where the "At home" in the logbook can mean anything.

It’s a Utopia, a non-place, which in the science fiction genre is often intended to distract from any concrete meaning of the narrative by hyper-exotic settings, thus pointing to its symbolic character. And so one reads, both in the press booklet and in the first reviews, that it is "The last country" The game is a parable, in which the inner journey of the characters to their respective places of longing is illustrated.

The film may also be read as a parable of the science fiction genre itself, with associations to other genre representatives; the images of the on-board computer screen, the cramped cockpit, the space station drifting in space, and individual motifs and narrative elements have led film critics to draw comparisons to numerous science fiction films.

As a film-socialized viewer, one can hardly avoid this, because the fewer concrete clues a film provides, the more its elements can/must be understood as symbols and quotations that provide an intertextual explanation "into the film" fetch. And so also love "The last land" into a motivational-historical web, which might have been inspired by Homer’s "Odyssey" ou to Jules Verne’s Fantastic Voyages, Clarke’s/Kubrick’s "2001", Scott’s "Alien" and Carpenters "Dark Star" up to Soderbergh’s "Solaris" reaches.

Whether deliberately staged by the makers or blob by the viewer "interpreted into": Intertextuality is here as elsewhere but never blob a reference "out" into cultural history, but also always a production of coprasence from past and present – with the latter always updating the former.

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