Vesper Discovers Seeds of Optimism in A Bioartificial Apocalypse!

Vesper, a European eco-fable, manages to weave together elements from a number of other sci-fi flicks into a cohesive whole that feels strangely new despite the abundance of Hollywood apocalypses (zombified, post-nuclear, plague-ridden) from which to draw inspiration.

Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper, both of Lithuania, start their picture in a misty bog that looks like it was shot in black and white. Teenager Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) emerges from the murk in a volleyball-shaped orb with a crudely painted face, and she quickly begins sloshing through the mud in search of food or materials for the bio-hacking she has learned herself to accomplish in a makeshift lab.

Vesper May Be a Loner, Yet She Is Rarely Alone

Her dad (Richard Brake) is bedridden in the hut they call home, and a sack of bacteria is breathing for him. In that floating ball lies his consciousness. Vesper engages in conversation with the orb, and the orb responds in kind. And then one day, in a world where nothing edible grows anymore, she makes a stunning discovery: seeds.

Actually, she didn’t just happen upon them; she kidnapped them, intending to decode their genetic structure so she can propagate them. The capitalist idea of copyrighted seed stock gone draconian is the cause of the collapse of the global eco-system; this practice amounts to nothing less than bio-engineering nature out of existence.

Those who tampered with the world now live in metal mushroom-shaped cities called “citadels” that use up all the planet’s resources, while the rest of humanity scrounges by in rags.

Do I risk being labeled a Dickens hater if I Yes, and there’s even a Fagin figure in the form of Vesper’s uncle Jonas (Eddie Marsan), who lives in a filthy camp full of children and uses them in ways that would disgust even Fagin? Without any other marketable goods, Jonas raises his children much like he would a herd of livestock, by collecting blood donations (Citadel residents apparently crave transfusions).

Vesper Thinks She Can Biohack Her Way to A Better Life

And it seems she has found an ally when a Citadel glider crashes and she rescues a little older stranger (pale, ghostly Rosy McEwan).

Their eco-catastrophe has the style of Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men, the gloom of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and the strength of Katniss Everdeen’s character in The Hunger Games.

vesper discovers seeds of optimism in a bioartificial apocalypse

And for what is surely a fraction of the expense of such films, they manage some very excellent world-building via physical and computer effects: Things like trees that breathe and pink shrieking worms that snap at anything that gets too close all add up to a Citadel inhabitant being stranded when their glider crashes.

Even though she lives in a dangerous place, Vesper is still an inquisitive and resourceful teenager who can discover beauty anywhere, such as in the bio-hacked plants that glow and pulse like jellyfish and reach out to touch her as she walks by.

All made totally convincing for a plot with roots in both young-adult fiction and real-world problems, from class conflicts to profit-driven bio-engineering to the kind of man-made calamities we’re all too familiar with today.

Vesper depicts a dystopian future with enough style to inspire optimism—for a world gone to seed as much as for independent cinema.

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