Wednesday 22 March 2017

Film Review: Planetarium

Rebecca Zlotowski’s supernatural period drama offers a wonderful respite for insomniacs.

Planetarium sees two American sisters who are believed to posses the supernatural ability to communicate with ghosts, Laura (Natalie Portman) and Kate (Lily-Rose Depp) Barlow, cross paths with André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger), an eccentric French filmmaker, while performing their travelling séance roadshow in pre-WWII Paris. Captivated by their ethereal connections, Korben invites the girls to live with him while they produce a movie centred on their show; but his interest soon transforms into something a little stranger and disconcerting.

Much like the séances it depicts, Planetarium is a vague and obscure dreamlike ritual that disentangles itself from the anchor of time, stretching two hours into what feels like a bottomless eternity. Maybe this elongated, formless structure is intentional; it could mirror Laura and Kate’s ambling and directionless lives or at a stretch the lingering limbo of European geopolitics on the eve of war. 

Whatever director Rebecca Zlotowski was aiming for with Planetarium, I don’t feel like much of it congealed into a cohesive whole. There is a collection of interesting ideas here; the middle act transforms into a strange pseudo-sexual experience with Korben supposedly navigating beyond the veil to meet with his deceased wife and using Kate as a vessel. 

But a lot of these ideas hang in isolation, disconnected from other ideas that waft gently in and out of the film. It certainly doesn’t help that both Portman and Depp are so reserved in their performances, again distanced from genuine warmth or deep emotion. We could have had something special on our hands, if only the rest of the film was as captivating as the production and costume design.

The Verdict: 5/10

Planetarium starts out promisingly before dissolving into a meandering and muddled mess that focuses too little on the most intriguing part of its hamstrung narrative - the supernatural gifts the two sisters possess. Plus, there are no planetariums in this film.

Planetarium is screening at Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX and Windsor Cinema from March 15 as part of the 28th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival.

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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