Terra 2084 (Earth 2084), Directed by Nuno Sá Pessoa
Terra 2084 (Earth 2084) shatters modern illusions as only an excellent dystopia can, dispelling illusion with straightforward truth in a context that is recognizable, yet grotesquely evolved beyond recognition. It is a film about capitalism, but penetrates beyond economic critique, toward an artistic communication that is decidedly interstellar.
The capitalism of Terra 2084 is familiar in its presentation: a cold, barren world coloured only in shades of grey, whose only significant (if not strictly human) interactions occur between the unemployed Zé (played by Fernando Luís), his antiquated radio, and a rat. The imagery is rendered excellently in narrative fashion that has now become entirely traditional: Zé’s world is an Orwellian nightmare twisted with recognizable elements of a Huxley dystopianism.
This world’s filth, its destitution, Zé’s antiquated machinery and relics of a past humanity – and above all the pervading greyness – evoke an Orwellianism whose significance and intention match the title of the film itself. One gets the sense that, far removed from the modern narrative of progress, 2084 presents the opposite reality: a world characterised not by any recognisable understanding of progress, but rather by its vile regression, the degradation of human societies and the destruction of a planet.
Zé listens to his radio broadcasting news about ‘the introduction of the World Currency – The Terrar’, the release of a new album by ‘the recently-cloned Jim Morrisson’, and sparring ‘congressmen’ discussing the ‘World Union’, ‘The New World Order’, and eliminating workers’ ‘right to two daily meals’. While listening he interacts with his companion – a rat – and the two seem to communicate on a level that extends beyond words: Zé, who has been snacking on an apple and feeding his friend with occasional scraps, gnaws at the apple in the manner of a rat. The scene is disgusting, but serves a powerful purpose in illustrating the extent to which the all-encompassing dystopian violence has dehumanised its subjects. In his filthy, dark, concrete abode, Zé socialises with his only companion.
The most powerful moments of the film involve Zé and his radio. In the middle of the debate amongst congressmen, a strange static disrupts the broadcast. Zé speaks into the radio transmitter’s microphone: ‘Come in… Hello’ – and from the radio’s speakers a mechanised voice responds identically, with the same time interval between words: ‘Come in… Hello’… And then…
This is an intergalactic communication.
Director and writer Nuno Sá Pessoa plays with themes of perception and illusion, and this is where the film’s writing shines: in the interstellar space between an unemployed human and an alien species. In this way the film takes on the intergalactic-anthropological perspective of a Vonnegut novel. It is through alien questions – and human attempts at explanation – that Zé gradually realises the absurdity of his own dystopian reality. He begins to question his role as the subject of a ‘World Union’, an unemployed and destitute worker in an enslaving and isolating economic system that creates the very problems it purports to solve.
The film’s imagery and sound beautifully create this terrible world. The entire film takes place in the same solitary, concrete chamber, but there is aural and visual stimulation that organically creates the character of a capitalism gone mad: the munching on an apple, Zé’s movement of his sparse posessions through the filth, and above all the human scale of the interaction of voices. Luís gives an excellent performance as Zé, and despite the revolting aspects of his life, we are drawn to his humanness and to Pessoa’s emphasis of his physical presence as an organic being. The editing is brilliantly, cinematically done, and the melding of reality and illusion, the variety of camera angles to create diversity in a single space, generates a seamless narrative.
The film is interestingly, perhaps unnecessarily, Orwellian in theme and consistency. The genre of sci-fi dystopia has moved so far beyond the Orwellianism of the twentieth century that those aspects of the film that recall elements of the last century’s dystopian nightmares – the black-and-white, the destitution, the peculiar clash between antiquated relics and future technology, the faceless State with decidedly Soviet undertones – are perhaps taken from a conception of ‘otherness’ and dystopianism that is no longer modern. And yet the film’s insistence on recalling these somewhat outdated elements, along with the centrality of the über-modern ‘intergalactic communication’, emphasises the enduring power of Orwell in a twenty-first-century modernity. Terra 2084 builds upon the significance of the 1949 novel to which this film’s title pays tribute (1984). The film’s ultimate message is stunningly relevant, its artistic expression skilfully executed. ■
Runtime: 15 minutes
Genres: Science Fiction, Short
Find out more
More information about Terra 2084 can be found in the Internet Movie Database and Facebook. More information about this film’s director and writer, Nuno Sá Pessoa, can also be found in the Internet Movie Database, as well as his website. Nuno Sá Pessoa is an accomplished Portuguese director, editor, producer, writer, cinematographer, actor, and independent filmmaker. His recent films include A Lagoa (The Pond), Bílis Negra (Black Bile), and The Headless Nun – among many others.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: A scene from ‘Terra 2084’ (‘Earth 2084’). Terra 2084.
This film is the 2015 recipient of the Atlas Award for Best Writing.