On The Silver Globe
A team of astronauts land on an inhabitable planet and form a society. Many years later, a single astronaut is sent to the planet and becomes a messiah.
“On the Silver Globe was originally made over a two-year shoot that ended in 1977, but was first seen in 1988 in a version newly supplemented by additional footage and the director’s own voiceover. We hear Zuławski at the start telling us that what we’re about to see is “a shred of a film,” a work of which one fifth is missing, since the film was “murdered.” He’s referring to the fact that, after an extended shoot that took in the Caucasus, the Crimea, the Baltic coast and the Gobi Desert, Poland’s Ministry of Culture shut down the production. Given that the extant four-fifths of Zuławski’s original vision already runs at 166 minutes, including those brief sequences of additional material, what remains is pretty substantial as shreds go—and comprehensively mind-bending. The Ministry may have had various reasons for curtailing production, but it’s not inconceivable that someone there simply thought that another 40 minutes of this stuff might just have been too much for viewers’ sanity.
As it stands, however, On the Silver Globe is an extraordinary film. In some ways, that’s precisely because of its incomplete condition and Zuławski’s attempt to repair the damage by highlighting it—exposing his film’s scars, as it were. His original intention was to adapt the first novel in a science-fiction trilogy written in 1903 by his great-uncle Jerzy Zuławski…
Whatever you make of On the Silver Globe, you won’t emerge from the confrontation entirely unchanged.” Jonathan Romney, Film Comment
“A certain amount of work is required to stitch together a sense of the plot, but as is often the case in Zulawski’s films, the story is less the point than an excuse, a loose temporal conceit holding together flights of visual invention, verbal extravagance and male and female nudity.
That “On the Silver Globe” does not really hold together is surely the fault of the long-gone government that prevented its completion. The most intriguing thing about watching it now may be the daydream it provokes of an alternative history. Imagine if Zulawski, who returned from exile in the West to undertake this project, had brought it to full fruition. What would the critics have thought? What would its legacy have been? What wonderful hybrid monsters in our midst would claim it as an ancestor?” A.O. Scott, NY Times
“Absurd and extreme, but never morbid, this European shock-cinema offering goes so far overboard in its excess that it becomes a bleak comic spit into the face of organized religion, organized society, and even organized narrative. It’s completely out of control, almost joyfully so, like a child knocking over sandcastles. As Zulawski once said, “The key to unhappiness is to control.”
Zulawski’s movies tackle big ideas, and if Possession is about the aching pain of love, then On the Silver Globe takes raging philosophical bites on the subject of ethical freedom. Zulawski believed we’re all unhappy, creating the image of God so that we can tear it down again, or kill, or fulfill our hungers and be forgiven. Heavy stuff, to be sure, but he expresses his thoughts through primal, kinetic images, with a restless camera shoving its way forward into scenes like a parasite and characters descending into caustic fits of love and hate. His films don’t seem like ponderous intellectual exercises, but highly emotional gut responses—and endlessly fascinating because we just aren’t used to seeing that much spirited, hyperactive, shrieking human feeling on screen at one time. When it’s all over, it feels like you’ve been through a cleansing sweat of tears. Viewers willing to jump into the abyss of Zulawski’s creation are encouraged to buckle their seatbelts and bring their crash helmets, because it’s a wild and bumpy trip down.” Jeremiah Kipp, Slant Magazine
- 4/26 | 8:00PM