I’m always amused by those lists of “obscure” Science Fiction films that feature films like Primer and Dark City. Obscure? You can find them in most video stores. To me, “obscure” means films like Decoder, Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea or Morel’s Invention.
What makes this Italian movie particularly interesting is that there is no dialogue in its first third – and the main character never actually interacts with anyone else. It probably reflects the influence of Last Year At Marienbad and is a remarkably faithful adaptation of Adolfo Bioy Casares’ Argentinian novel (he is best remembered for his collaborations with Jorge Luis Borges).
An escaped criminal washes ashore on a desolate island and finds a deserted library with strange machinery in its cellar. A group of people appear overnight, all dressed as if they came from the 1920’s – but none of them will pay the slightest attention to him.
Morel himself was inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau – and like the novel’s Moreau, he is not a scenery chewing monster, but a far too normal man. He proves to have committed an unimaginable crime because of his infatuation for a woman who will not have him. Ironically, the fugitive ultimately chooses to die for the same reasons.
Ah, but don’t expect anyone to make a Hollywood version anytime soon: it’s too demanding on the audience, has far too many intelligent ideas and just doesn’t have enough explosions!