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STUDIO: The Weinstein Company
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
The Making of Dante 01 featurette
In space, no one can make sense.
Lambert Wilson, Linh Dan Pham, Simona Maicanescu, Dominique Pinon, Bruno Lochet, François Levantal, Gérald Laroche, François Hadji-Lazaro, Lotfi Yahya Jedidi, Yann Collette.
Dante 01 is the name of a deep space psychiatric facility orbiting a fiery red planet (Dante) that does experiments on the most dangerously insane criminals. A new inmate, nicknamed “Saint George” by the other inmates, arrives as the lone survivor of a convoy ship that met disaster. SG was thereupon convicted for the murders of the crew. SG is in somewhat of a fugue state throughout the film and seems to have strange powers which affect the work of a visiting doctor who uses nanotechnology in a new experiment on the inmates.
It’s the rare film that can have me perpetually thinking, “What the hell am I watching here?” Dante 01 is definitely one of those films. Even after seeing it, I’m still not quite sure what the hell I saw. The best I can give you is that it’s an example of flash over substance, with a mishmash of allegories, religious dogma and themes and a script that might just echo a darker 2001 if it managed to make much if any sense. The film was directed by french helmer Marc Caro, who teamed with Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Caro’s background is as a comic book artist and in visual and conceptual design. And there are plenty of stirring visual and conceptual elements to Dante 01. However, here’s also an overabundance of religious allegory and iconography that’s bereft of any coherent story to support it.
Ole Merv himself, Lambert Wilson, plays Saint George, a perpetually dazed individual with no backstory other than he survived a transport ship massacre for which he was convicted. He also has strange abilities that allow him to see either real or imagined “parasites” within bodies that he thereupon “eats,” curing the host – in this case the inmates – of their ills, which include their mental deficiencies such as homicidal impulses. SG is a mystery, even to the doctors there to treat him. One of the doctors, Elisa (Pham), arrived with him on a shuttle, transported to the station to do experimentation with a new nanotech treatment that is supposed to cure the inmates of their aggressive mental tendencies by repairing their DNA, a procedure which is incredibly painful to say the least. The cure almost seems worse than the disease (but no more so than the original Battlestar Galactica method of recycling the nanotech animation time and again). Elisa is under orders from the corporation sponsoring her work to get results, and 100% losses are acceptable.
SG relieves several of the inmates of this “cure,” which leads some of them to treat him as a messiah rather than an inmate. This upsets a delicate balance of power attained by Cesar (Pinon), which means he’s suddenly expendable. There are other subplots at play in Dante 01, like one of the administrators conspiring with an inmate named Attila (Collette), a computer genius, to keep tabs on the prisoners and find out about Elisa’s work. But Attila isn’t content to just use the computer gear for surveillance and uses it to endanger the station. Saving the station eventually leads one inmate to literally deep frying himself, and SG to a space walk with a result so ludicrous (and so repetitively shot…Christ, it’s like 90 seconds of bad .gif animation) that you’ll be scratching your head so much you’ll end up as bald as all of the characters. On a side note, considering all characters were bald, it’s easy to get lost more than a couple of times by who was who and who was doing what. And the names such as Charon, Persephone, Attila, Buddha, Lazarus Moloch, etc aren’t exactly light in the symbolism department.
Jeunet / Caro fans may get more out of the imagery at work here, but even they are going to have a hard time with the story, which is biblically hackneyed.
The film is in French, but thankfully there’s also a dubbed English track. It’s was hard enough trying to make sense of things without having to read dialogue as well. I don’t mind reading a good film. I hate reading bad ones. The subtitles (English, English for Hearing Impaired and Spanish) are also quite bad. And as far vas I can tell, there’s no difference between the two English subtitle versions. They frequently don’t match up with the dubbed English dialogue, as if someone was winging it on a steno pad while listening to the movie. There’s also a making of featurette, The Making of Dante 01, that’s pretty good and runs about 30 minutes. A trailer rounds out the offerings.