Silent Running

Year: 1972
Director: Douglas Trumbull
Writer: Michael Cimino
Cast: Bruce Dern, Ron Rifkin
This is science fiction before Star Wars and Jaws changed science fiction to the action-oriented, make-all-the-budget-back-on-the-first-weekend genre it is today.

Science fiction used to be the intellectual genre thanks to filmmakers like Stanislaw Lem and Stanley Kubrick and writers like Philip K Dick, where humankind could examine our existence and our place in both society and the universe. Now it's about chase sequences and ugly aliens, and that sort of escapism is fine, but it's a shame the cerebral kind of sci-fi is out of fashion.

Silent Running has many themes, among them environmentalism and conservation, our relationship to technology and plain madness.

A much younger Bruce Dern is Freeman Lowell, a botanist on a remote space mission near Saturn where he tends the last plant and animal life left from Earth after the inevitable holocaust. The gardens are encased in huge bio-domes, and he's never happier than when spending time in them, imagining a world full of clean air and telling his uncaring crewmates how much the Earth is missing never seeing a tree or hearing a bird sing.

When the mission receives orders to destroy the craft and return home, his crew is overjoyed, but Lowell sees it as a betrayal of everything the human race has left. He takes matters into his own hands, killing the rest of his crew and fleeing with his space-borne forests.

Transforming himself into something of a God, Lowell has command over the last of the Earth's forests, with the ultimate power to save or destroy them. He even creates a society of followers in the three cute maintenance droids, which he reprograms to take care of him and help him.

It does indeed ask the question; what would you do? But it's also sad, poignant and understated. The effects were great for the time - the droids were a little clumsy and obviously midgets in Styrofoam suits, but the shots of the bio-domes drifting through space are haunting even now.

© 2011-2024 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au