Music of the Spheres (1984)

There are some films out there that are so curious it is hard to know what to think of them.

Somehow, it seems like a lot of them ended up on video back in the Eighties.

Music of the Spheres was one of those films funded by the Canadian government.  They used to fund lots of shorts and animated films, and the occasional feature film that was so odd it was hard to know why anyone thought it was a good idea, like the incredible but mind-bogglingly bizarre horror/science fiction/musical hybrid, Big Meat Eater.

So here we have a film set in a polyglot future, with English, French, and  smatterings of German and Russian in the dialogue.  Mind you, we find the same characters talking to each other and switching between English and French, but oh, well.  That isn’t the strangest thing here.

After the collapse of civilization, the world rebuilt itself until it finally reached the point where it had spaceships, computers that think like living things — and VHS tapes.

It all has gone to produce a new order known as “the system,” which has perfectly organized the world on the basis of balance and harmony. Its latest project promises to give the world all the free energy it needs — ever — by simply moving three asteroids to beam microwave power to earth.

This is only possible thanks to The Beast, a massive supercomputer which behaves more like a biological entity than a traditional computer.  Only a few people who have a unique frequency to their brainwaves can interact with it, in a way that isn’t quite telepathy — for this important project, they’ve chosen a young woman who finds herself haunted by strange visions after something goes wrong with their attempt to move the third asteroid, Ceres.

This is a decidedly low-key production, with a lot of ideas, some decidedly interesting moments, a few notable bits of imagery, and some reasonably good Eighties-style model work (not Gerry Anderson good, but that’s a lot to ask, anyway).  Unfortunately, it also has some of the worst performances I’ve seen in a film this competent.  In particular, the star, Anne Dansereau, is just awful.  Maybe her acting in French is better, as her odd delivery might be because she doesn’t understand her dialogue particularly well.  

However, I have my doubts.

I have to admit that I am quite pleased to see one of the elements here — we later learn that one of things causing what seems to be a breakdown with their computers systems is the assumptions made by their programming.  This is a very real problem which haunts not only computing but also the use of computer modelling in science — but which all to often goes unnoticed.

The director, Philip Jackson, went on to make several more ultra-low budget genre films, although I don’t get the impression that any of them are as chock full of ideas as this one.  I can’t say I recognized any of the name or faces involved.

Mind you, as this film remained quite obscure, even if there was some sort of limited VHS release, that isn’t exactly a surprise.

Most of you will find this one a bit slow.  Many won’t be able to look past the dreadful acting.  Or won’t want to put with subtitles, even if they are used sparingly.  Or will want a lot more action and explosions, even if the moon does get blown up in the end.

But it is an interesting little minor film which is worth a look for those of us interested in more cerebral SF films.

Even if some of the ideas are just as odd as this strange little film.

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