Dir: Ulaa Salim | Sci-Fi 99′
Director Ulaa Salim returns to The Rotterdam Film Festival after his first feature Sons Of Denmark premiered there in 2019 to wide acclaim. His latest is a safe piece of narrative with a very high opinion of itself but ultimately wallowing in schematic plotting to create a soufflé of a film.
Going back to his 2012 short Ung For Evigt, a rather juvenile look at one’s first great love, For Evigt/Eternal takes that premise and shoe- horns the contemporary fear of ‘imminent climate emergency’ into the mix, with diminishing returns.
Elias (Viktor Hjelmso) bonds with Anita (Anna Sogaard Frandsen) on the dancefloor. Bland repetitive beats lead to nervous introductions, copious alcohol consumption, consummation and pledges of undying love told (of course) with a slow montage to pass the time that could/should be used to broaden the lead characters.
Soon enough our loved up couple hit a blip: He wants to study (with a focus on the climate crisis) while she wants to have a good time. And before we know it she is pregnant and he has been offered a place at MIT.
Tough choices are made that destroy the relationship, and we eventually jump forward 15 years later to discover the planet is in danger with the Icelandic coastline collapsing into the sea: There appears to be a breach in the Earth’s core that could speed up climate change.
Now the film reveals what the filmmaker obviously thinks is his trump card – alternate realities that reveal Elias and Anna in different versions of where they are as the environment crisis worsens.
Elias (now played by Simon Sears) and Anita (by Nanna Øland Fabricius, or as she is known, the musician ‘Oh Land’), bump into each other in three ‘what if’ possibilities. Here Salim is looking at other filmmakers who played with the concept, most successfully Krzysztof Kieslowski in Blind Chance. Sadly Eternal is closest to Peter Howitt’s tediously banal Sliding Doors and has ideas above its station.
For Evigt/Eternal is a very middle of the road film and not really worth getting worked up over, despite the filmmaker’s sly and sometimes obvious references to Godard, Tarkovsky, Kubrick and Malick. In fact, one almost envies his chutzpah in stealing one of Kubrick’s pièces de résistance: the finale from 2001, intercut with re-hashes of late Malickian reveries. In hindsight though I couldn’t ultimately decide if it was arrogance or stupidity that led to these bizarre choices.
The film reminds me of British efforts that seem to exist as a clarion call to the US studios, rather than a work that exists for its own sake as an example of the seventh art. Depressing as that is, there is a kind of honesty here that reveals more about what we have just watched, and what it means in the grand scheme of things vis-à-vis film festivals and their ultimate raison d’être. @d_w_mault
ROTTERDAM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2024