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Silent Running (Douglas Trumball)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
I haven't seen this in many years but it had the golden glow of nostaligia enlightening my perceptions...so I tried to remain nuetral and judge the film on its merits. And was actually very surprised! Though the opening credit sequence is like a National Geographic special (or Terrance Malik Film) and the two Joan Baez songs were like fingernails on a chalkboard, I think the seed of this film has grown into a beautiful flower over time.

SILENT RUNNING (Douglas Trumball, 1972, USA) Freeman Lowell casts adrift humanity’s final message in a bottle, a geodesic dome that contains Earth’s anachronistic untainted beauty, a prescient missive to all intelligent beings that rape their environment. In 1777, the fate of a young nation struggled in the cold of Valley Forge; now, the destiny of the human race is fought in the cold dark recesses of space upon a ship bearing the hallowed namesake. Director Douglas Trumball was responsible for the special effects in two of the greatest science fiction films ever created: 2001 and BLADE RUNNER. The set design of the Valley Forge is the template for Ridley Scott’s Nostromo: the bridge a functional design and not a flashy space opera spectacle. Though the science is questionable: Why seed these geodesic domes in deep space? Wouldn’t it be more economic to orbit them around the moon, a ellipses (1 A.U.) about the sun, or build them on Earth? As the film begins, is there enough sunlight 8,933,750,00 miles from Sol to sustain these domes? How is life sustained on earth without any plant life? But Trumball is more concerned with the inner spectacle, with examining human nature, its faults and strengths, and the slow decay of the mind in isolation devoured by remorse and regret. Bruce Dern’s powerful performance carries the narrative burden, a one-man tour-de-force that evokes compassion and sadness as he descends into the darkness of inner space. The two drones Huey and Dewey display a few subtle gestures that grace them with an electric soul: they tap their toes in impatience and, while playing cards, out-cheat their creator. The film is full of these tiny flourishes and details that add depth and realism, though the Joan Baez music is teeth grinding. Lowell murders his companions and hijacks the precious cargo, running silent through the nebulous rings of Saturn, sharing paradise with his programmed creations. When “rescued”, Lowell succumbs to the schizophrenia that divides his peaceful nature and disappears in a brilliant flash of silent light. But his message remains free of human bondage. (B)


message 2: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 144 comments I actually really liked the Joan Baez songs when I first saw this movie on the late late show one Saturday night in the mid 70s during my jr high school days.

Funny how certain music takes me back to emotional moments in my discovery and love of old science fiction movies. Beethoven's 6th symphony "The Pastoral" does the same thing for another movie dealing with environmental conscience awakening from the same era; Soylent Green.

The science in this movie doesn't make sense. The last of Earth's forests floating in deep space in giant domes anchored to huge space ships. I have always thought it would be easier and cheaper to maintain the precious cargo on or near Earth.

In any case our hero Lowell sacrifices his fellow crew members when they willingly start to destroy the domes so they can return to Earth. They no longer recognize the benefit to maintain a few plants.

Ironically, just as the crew believes they no longer need the environment; Lowell believes he no longer needs human companionship. In his long and lonely crusade to defend the forests he gradually learns he does need some sort of companionship and social interaction; to me this is where the movie really gets interesting and what he does to relieve his loneliness.


message 3: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
Great insight Manuel! The film focuses upon Earth's nature & Human nature.


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