When I sat down to watch William Eubank’s Love last night, I wondered how this film had escaped my notice. I usually keep abreast of these things and, in particular, I am a sucker for lofty existential science fiction. Then again, even as such productions go, Love has an added layer of obscurity to it. Produced by a band (Angels & Airwaves), with a vaguely all-encompassing title and a shoestring budget, it is something of an oddity.
If any band were to produce a meditative work of science fiction, Angels & Airwaves would not be my first guess. They are a super-group of sorts, formed by ex-members of mainly punk (the Offspring, the Distillers) or emo/commercial rock-orientated bands (30 seconds to Mars, Lostprophets). I don’t wish to seem snobbish (I was a big Offspring fan myself) but they’re not the sort of guys you’d expect to go in for this kind of thing. Particularly lead singer, Tom DeLonge, formerly of Blink182, who were known for such lyrical gems as ejaculate into a sock. I didn’t let this bother me and, in fact, from the get-go I was more impressed than anything else by their branching out into more cerebral pursuits.
To summarise, in the near future, astronaut, Lee Miller, is sent up to the International Space Station to make it operational again after a twenty-year hiatus in space exploration by NASA. While on board he loses contact with Earth after an unspecified catastrophe (which is implied to be a global war) takes place. A parallel storyline, told through the journals of a soldier in the American Civil War, who is sent to investigate a mysterious discovery, is interspersed with the main narrative. As well as interview footage showing the philosophical musings of random strangers and Lee’s isolation-induced hallucinations. If it sounds a little disjointed, don’t worry, it is; but it worked for me. I would say I was pleasantly surprised but I had a suspicion I would enjoy it. These multiple interviewing narratives have become rather hackneyed in recent years, but are still very effective when done well.
The score, all-important for the producers in this case, works exceptionally well. It is to the band’s credit that they were disciplined in staying away from lyrics and sticking to an atmospheric score, until the film’s euphoric conclusion. Apparently they are working on several more films, and, on the strength of their efforts here, I will be keeping an eye out.
Of course it is not without its problems; the budget shows itself in some of the oversights (like the unexplained persistence of gravity in high-Earth orbit) but this is made up for by moments of great beauty. There were also some practical questions that weren’t addressed (what was he eating?). But it is the hallmark of an engaging cinematic experience, particularly in the case of art-house films, that I was content to just accept these things and move on.
Chief among its problems, though, is that Love is basically a triple-hybrid of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Duncan Jones’ Moon and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. In terms of philosophical and metaphysical concepts, there is really nothing much new here; it is a synthesis of old ideas brought together and re-packaged in a very agreeable way.
I was acutely aware throughout, that this film had committed concept-larceny against previous efforts. However, while it is slightly irksome in some moments, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the film. It caused me some hesitation in writing this review that I felt this should have bothered me more than it did. But there was enough originality to keep me watching and clearly a lot of heart put into the production. Where it does strike out from the films it borrows from philosophically is the effect it achieves, through a combination of cinematography and narrative, of looking down on the Earth and feeling completely separate from it, helpless and isolated. Other reviewers have already commented on its evocation, to great effect, of Carl Sagan’s ˜Pale Blue Dot’ speech.
After watching this film I couldn’t help thinking of Prometheus, for which I waited with wall-crawling impatience for a year, only to be terribly let down by a production that evidently had little to no respect for the intelligence of its audience. Love, on the other hand, came out of nowhere and, with the humility of a more novice production, gave me a far more satisfying experience. Love is, at the risk of sentimentalising, clearly a labour of it.