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The first human being born in Mars returns to Earth in order to meet his grandfather, in this expressionist Belgian sci-fi - from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

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Zeria’s mother migrated to Mars whilst pregnant, and her baby boy became the first person to be born on the fourth planet of the Solar System. His grandfather Gaspard was left behind on a devastated Earth. Decades later, the old man writes an extensive letter to his grandchild in the hope that they could meet before he passes away. He urges Zeria to visit to the blue planet as soon as possible as he fears that his end is nigh. He writes: “I’m the last one here. So old, my bones like sand”. He implores his descendant: “Zeria, my grandson, I would like to hug you before I die, however I have the strength of a sparrow”.

Gaspard’s letter to Zeria in voice-over format provides the backbone of the film narrative. His voice is mournful and laborious, aligned with quiet and eerie images that populate this extremely unusual film. Real actors wear creepy masks (perhaps made of papier mache?), something between Jason Voorhees and Georges Franju’s Eyes Without A Face (1960), supported by extensive puppetry and urban dioramas. The outcome is singular. The vast urban landscapes are reminiscent Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), the main difference being these buildings have been long abandoned: trees have taken over as mankind vanished from Earth.

Most of the film is in black-and-white, with a very meaningful red used sparingly. Such colour has multiple connotations here. Red is the colour of blood, but it’s also the colour of Mars. It evokes death, but it also evokes courage. The almost expressionless human faces are bright white, conveying a sense of purity and innocence. Gaspard’s narration indeed sounds very candid, straight from his heart. This is a film teeming with sadness and nostalgia. With quite a few twists thrown in. Dirty highlights include a pig climbing out of a woman’s vagina and a tentacled alien sex scene that would make Isabelle Adjani’s Anna of Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) jealous.

In other words: a weird, creepy and strangely soothing little film.

Zeria has just premiered at the 25th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, as part of the Rebels with a Cause section.


By Victor Fraga - 25-11-2021

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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