PlanetariumLondon Film Festival 2016
12th October 2016 6.15pm at Cineworld Haymarket
13th October 2016 2.45pm at Vue West End
14th October 2016 6.15pm at Cineworld Haymarket
Planetarium looks and sounds like a good film. It has Natalie Portman in it and its premise – about two mediums becoming movie stars – is promising. So why is it not? Part of the issue may be that Rebecca Zlotowski has packed so much into it – supernatural mystery, cinematic illusion, the war in Europe – that it collapses under its own weight, becoming a lushly mounted but unsatisfying confusion.
Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp play Laura and Kate Barlow, two sisters who practice a séance act at a theatre. Laura is the moderator, the showwoman, whereas Kate is the talent, whose rapid breathing gives their volunteers visions. One of their clients is film producer André Korben (Emmanuel Salinger); after completing a private show at his house, he hires them and sets out to capture their magic in a film. The director recognises Laura’s screen quality – Natalie Portman would likely be a star in the 30s as well as now – and she’s absorbed into a world of rich glamour.
Those waiting for the film to express a clear focus will be disappointed. There is plenty of pastiche: iris shots are used to highlight details, and Portman sports silent film makeup and costume in her screen tests. There is also a romantic quality to the photography, an ornate capturing of expansive interiors and sunny beaches. But it never quite manages to convince as a period piece – the acting, the technique is too modern – so much of the meta-texture falls flat.
Threads are introduced, then forgotten about. It is revealed that André is Jewish, and has a secret from his past that a séance might allow him to access. He also acted in pornography. Kate also seems to possess a genuine talent for the supernatural, as her intentions are never doubted as less than pure; there are also hints of a love triangle between Laura, Kate and André. These ideas are presented in such surreal and haphazard ways that they feel like smoke without fire; none illicit much emotional reaction.
There is something interesting about Planetarium’s central idea: that film is a ghostly medium, allowing people to spend time with James Deen and Lauren Bacall – in the same way the night sky can be enjoyed without knowing that most stars up there died a long time ago. Had it a less muddled script, it might have lived up to its promise.
Planetarium does not have a UK release date yet.
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Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Planetarium here: