Annihilation review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Annihilation, in its own right, is a near-masterpiece. Near because most of its peculiar ideas (both visual and thematic-wise) are either borrowed from other films or books, or packed in such a way that pays an homage to the works that it also borrows from. It’s a strange relationship between the old and the new, where the old both inspires and breaks through the new via visual mastery that is ambiguous in the least – and straight up confusing at the most. So, what are these works that Annihilation borrows from? Well, two words (okay, maybe three): Tarkovsky, Kubrick, and Stanislaw Lem. Okay, four words, but three persons.
Right from the get-go, Annihilation starts off slowly and omits any relevant information that might put some perspective in the viewer’s mind. Despite of some mistaking this as a slow-burning intro, it is actually a good storytelling and kudos to the filmmakers for understanding just that. See, when you start with a 100% reliable narrator (whoever that might be) – then all sense of mystery is lost and you’re actually “hearing” the film instead of “watching” the film. There are exceptions to this rule, seen in films such as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy (Cate Blanchet) or another fairly underrated and unjustly-bashed smaller live feature called ‘Dylan Dog’ (Brandon Routh). The narration in these films is impeccably done and should be a book example on future filmmakers on how to do narration properly. But anyways, I digress: Annihilation features none of it, and is all the better for it.
In the film, Lena (Natalie Portman) wakes up in some facility with a hard case of partial amnesia and tries to make sense to whatever had happened to her right before the wake. Meanwhile, there are scientists and people in biohazard suits questioning Lena about her previous whereabouts, the fate of her team members, and other things that seem as distant and alien to Lena as she herself seems to them.
All of that is set in the film’s present day, and when Annihilation finally goes back to unravel the mystery to whatever happened before, it becomes abundantly clear that the majority of the chronology would depict events in retrospective in light of the main event. What is this main event you may ask? Well, I don’t know for certain: all I know was that it involves some kind of Aether aliens, DNA, and the Earth’s atmosphere. Doesn’t that sound suspiciously familiar? Well, the answer is, again, yes. That’s exactly how ‘Solaris’, written by Stanislaw Lem and later adapted by Andrey Tarkovsky, also tells its fairly poignant and dramatic sci-fi tale.
In fact, it would be only fair to say that Annihilation is a beautiful amalgamation between ‘Solaris’ and ‘Stalker’; ‘Solaris’ in its thematic subject, and ‘Stalker’ in its visual splendor. And why Kubrick? Mostly because of the film’s excellent sets and visually masterful camera work, which I would not dare to spoil further.
Bottom line: Annihilation is a must-see and that’s non-debatable (preferably on your own in a dark room, headphones, and a love lamp to keep you company).