A Glorious, Slow-paced, but ultimately satisfying film
Beautifully shot and set in the most incredible landscapes ever (apparently most of the exteriors were filmed in Mongolia), this is an extraordinary near-future intellectual sci-fi. The sci-fi elements in the film are integrated into the narrative in a fundamental way, as opposed to the effects in movies about the future which are more like robot porn.
Here, everything is understated: There are four main characters who are driven to be more than human, and each one is a microcosm of one segment of Russian society: there is an overachieving Noble-prize level scientist; his frigid Stepford wife; her brother who is a Russian version of Ryan Secrest; and a neo-Nazi type of leader of an organized crime syndicate. This last one is all evil, whereas the others are complicated by their personalities, which range between good and non-good.
They journey to a distant site in the middle of a vast empty landscape-- a circle that seems to be a mile in diameter, in which the center functions as a kind of funnel for all of the energy gathered from the sun and stars. There is a rumor that all of the people in the area have eternal youth, and these four are intrigued enough to spend any amount to find out for themselves.
Into the mix is thrown a woman who may just be the Russian Secrest's perfect counterpart, and the five of them "adopt" one woman who appears to be in her 20's, yet is 30 years older. Now the six characters experience what it means to have complete and utter youth and happiness. As you might imagine, it comes with horrifying pitfalls.
There are so many themes in the film that it would be hard to summarize them all, but suffice it to say that the film plays with the idea of a sliding scale of good and evil existing in all people and all things.
And there is yet another important theme, which is that old age, with its wisdom, is way more preferable than the limitations of a life of childish wanton behavior.
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