Index Zero movie review (Edinburgh International Film Festival)

Index Zero green light

Smart, thoughtful science fiction that’s about ideas, not spectacle, with an extra kick of cautionary-tale warning in light of current events.
I’m “biast” (pro): big science fiction fan

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

In the near future, a man (Simon Merells: The Wolfman) and a woman (Ana Ularu: Serena) struggle to survive as they travel across a gray wasteland denuded of green but littered with empty, crumbling buildings. A strange airplane roars overhead, so we know we — and they — are not beyond the end of civilization… and then they come to a walled town, where grubby, hard-faced people trade broken-down electronics (or their bodies) and the only well-fed few are men in riot gear with a corporate logo for “Biosource” across their backs. And we slowly begin to understand, as the couple trade their last valuable possessions — gold, but also meat — for a chance to sneak over the border into the “United States of Europe” that this is perhaps the last refugee crisis on dying planet Earth.

In light of the migrant disaster unfolding in real-world Europe this summer, there is an extra kick of cautionary-tale warning to be found in English-speaking white people reduced to such an abject existence and pitiful desperation. (This is an Italian film but in the English language, the feature debut of writer-director Lorenzo Sportiello.) This sort of thing isn’t “supposed” to happen to Us, only to Those Other People, whose misery we can just turn the news off to avoid. But as the couple discover how the USE is managing to maintain the enviable lifestyle that drew them in the first place, the dread of the film is that this is a future for us all, and that even the solution is a cold one. Still, Index Zero’s isn’t an easily dismissible horror; there is no Soylent Green-type shocker, but a well-conceived and chillingly plausible suggestion of how dwindling resources might be allocated. It’s so credible that it might work.

Visually, the film is elegant if somewhat derivative — think Firefly meets Children of Men — and I have a small issue with how the ending comes about, but it’s nevertheless a thrill to know that someone is making smart, thoughtful science fiction that’s about ideas, not spectacle.

viewed during the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival

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