A review by Brenda Daniels
I’m always attracted to futuristic films, especially if they’re about a world changed by drastic weather conditions. Snowpiercer is one such example. But this film is more about man’s meddling in both the natural and the social worlds, than it is about earth’s imagined future.
The result is a strange, unsettling film, with surprising violence and oddly paced action.
To counteract the effects of global warming, in Snowpiercer, humans attempt to cool the atmosphere. Their efforts fail, however, and an ice age ensues. The only human survivors live on a high-speed, constantly moving train called the Snowpiercer. Just as the frozen landscape it travels through is a by-product of human engineering, so the social conditions on the train are carefully controlled by humans. Their product is an unequal class system.
The action begins when the low lifes at one end of the train rebel against their squalid living conditions and fight their way to the front. Each coach they move through features a surrealistically different “landscape”.
The fighting is violent and moves through the coaches in a staccato manner that echoes the breaks in the carriages, pausing too long in each one rather than flowing at an even pace.
Most intriguing is the story’s underlying reference to, and questioning of, an ostensibly Judeo-Christian perspective on life. The train, which circumnavigates the earth once a year, is called an ark. Its leader, Wilford, is referred to in mysterious, divine terms. And Wilford determines the destiny of the train’s passengers in a pre-ordained manner that unjustly benefits some while sacrificing others.
At the film’s conclusion we are left wondering if, just as the train moves inexorably round the earth, the cycle of man’s unsavoury influence on earth will simply continue.
Snowpiercer opens at Ster Kinekor theatres in South Africa on 17 October.
Tilda Swinton stars in Snowpiercer. Photo: Creative Commons (Flickr.com)