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.
For further information about the 60th London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Planetarium here: