Jupiter’s Moon (2017)

December 19th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir|Writer; Kornel Mundruczo | Cast: Merab Ninidze, Gyorgy Cserhalmi, Monika Balsai, Zsombor Jeger | 110min | Sci-fi | Hungary

After success with his Cannes Un Certain Regard winner White God (2013) Hungarian auteur Kornel Mundruczo mades it into the festival’s main competition last year with this flawed sci-fi thriller that sees a young immigrant shot down while illegally crossing the border into Hungary. Terrified and in shock, he finds his life has mysteriously been transformed by the gift of levitation.

Clearly the director has honed his craft since his previous arthouse winner with its strong amd imaginative narrative . JUPITER is visually more ambitious and technically brilliant but narratively a mess. The bewildering storyline starts off with a great premise – a Syrian refugee becomes an angel in one of Jupiter’s Moons where a cold ocean known as Europa spawns new forms of life. The metaphor is clear and cleverly thought out yet the film tries to be too many things, a political commentary and an action thriller: less would have been far more effective than more. After a blindingly intriguing opening scene, the shaky handheld camera continues in a tonally uniform almost continuous take that eventually feels exhausting, and hardly ever gives up, detracting from the enjoyment of the stunning set pieces.

Zsombor Jéger is the central character but not a sympathetic or particularly engaging one as Aryan, the Syrian refugee who is gunned down by László (György Cserhalmi), the nasty leader of a refugee camp in Budapest. Aryan survives his injuries and then discovers an uncanny ability to float, and from then on desperately tries to find his father with the help of a nefarious doctor, Stern (Merab Ninidze), who has been struck off for medical malpractice. Aryan is inveigled into a plan to defraud Stern’s rich patients into believing he has faith healing properties, but this is a tenuous ploy that again feels too gimmicky.

White God had a believable plot with engaging characters but Jupiter’s Moon, although a far more technically skilful film, feels hollow, glib and also frankly quite laborious despite the arresting visual wizardry of White God cinematographer Marcell Rév. Ninidze Stern’s Gabor is a quixotic and cunning rogue and far and away the most exciting character in an ensemble of cardboard cyphers. Along with the visual mastery there is an impressive atmospheric score that helps to ramp up the tension and also adds a certain gravitas. A shame then that the whole things feels so underwhelming and unwieldy as a story. Clearly the director is trying to up his game but needs to establish whether he wants to go for arthouse audiences or the mainstream crowd. White God was starting to build him a fanbase, but this seems like a step backwards. MT


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