AMAD continues with William Eubank’s Love, a thought-provoking space adventure that asks big questions about the universe and human existence.
Maybe love, maybe hate. It all depends on the viewer and their expectations. Eubanks’ cinematic puzzle, connecting the lives of a questing Civil War soldier and an abandoned astronaut drifting through space, is the kind of picture sure to divide audiences with its style and intent. Love, produced by Tom DeLonge and his band Angels and Airwaves, combines the concepts and ideas prevalent in commercial science fiction with the patience and meditative tones often found in classical art and music.
Primarily a visual and aural dreamscape of one man’s descent into loneliness and possible madness, Love draws on previous films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris and Moon for its themes and imagery. If you can commit to Eubanks’ ambience and deliberate pacing, then you may find, as I did, that Love is an emotional and haunting experience that insists upon repeat viewings. I watched it twice before writing this review, and will likely see it again in the days before the VOD rental expires.
The first image is a clue; the turning of the Earth, temporarily revolving backward. Then a lovely and graceful prologue taking place during the final days of the Civil War, as uncanny survivor Lt. Lee Briggs is sent from his current outpost to locate an ‘object of grand design’ that has been discovered in the Colorado river basin. We are not provided with an image of this object or what it might be, but there’s a certain learning curve for films of this kind and the astute will know its nature long before it is revealed to us.
After the painterly images of the war dissipate, we move to another point in time, farther into Earth’s future—2039 to be exact—when a lone astronaut, Lee Miller (Gunner Wright), becomes the first man into space in twenty years. Why he’s there is not made clear to the audience or Miller, and when something goes terribly wrong down on the Earth’s surface, he and the mission are seemingly abandoned. While the world as he knows it may have extinguished itself, Miller is left with his depleting habitable resources and his own isolated mind. During the film’s second half, Miller starts to believe that he’s not alone, and though Earth always remains within his view, he is now in uncharted territory as far as the limits of human experience go.
Human experience is at the very heart of Love, and the feelings and thoughts it inspires are rich and pervasive. Many pictures that strive to create a mood through sensory elements and visual metaphor can estrange themselves from an audience. Eubanks avoids this by blending his technique and ambitions with a surprisingly intimate testament to impermanence. The cinematography and visual effects are tremendously accomplished for a picture made for a mere 200k, and the Angels and Airwaves soundtrack illuminates the imagery with a stirring and textured aural identity. The complexity of the story adds a degree of interest to the proceedings; much of the running time is given over to Miller’s isolation, expanded with a combination of talking heads recounting their understanding of life, the uncovering of Brigg’s war journal, and a final segment that pushes into the mysteries of the cosmos while exposing the true purpose of the spaceship.
Science fiction is at its best when it explores not just external truths but human hopes and fears, and the reality of our own civilization’s mortality; of our planet’s relative smallness in the face of a vast universe. Love, although it seems itself small and calculated initially, grows as it goes. It challenges the senses and stretches the imagination in ways similar to Kubrick’s 2001. If it has a shortcoming, it’s that director Eubanks occasionally follows too closely in the narrative mold of the previous film. There’s a scene of a suited astronaut wandering through an elaborate, empty mansion that may or may not be a veneer for alien intelligence. The interiors of the ship and the antiseptic corridors, contrasted against the antiquity of history also connect Love to what may be the defining film of the genre.
That Moon, The Fountain and even Contact supply Love with additional stepping stones don’t necessarily help it feel original and fresh. And yet, in its own hermetic way, Love is original and an achievement on its own terms. It channels an intimacy that was only present in The Fountain, and it trades that film’s sense of fantasy for hard science fiction.
I was undeterred by the lack of explanation or excessive exposition in the film. Love isn’t that kind of movie. It is a mood piece that offers up a great performance by Gunner Wright. Eubank has emphasized the emotions in each sequence, and I was struck by the imagination and depth on display. I have rarely been so moved by a science fiction picture, and to discover Love amidst the myriad of big, loud special effects pieces is like stumbling upon star light in the cold dark. This is a gem of a picture that deserves to be seen, mentally digested, and then seen again.