Directors: Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper
Writers: Kristina Buozyte, Brian Clark, Bruno Samper
Stars: Raffiella Chapman, Eddie Marsan, Rosy McEwen
A starkly imaginative dystopian fairy tale, an eco-futuristic film if you will, Vesper is one of those few sci-fi fantasies that comes with an entire world believably constructed. While its story is told in a low-key register, and may feel more like part of a maturing high-end limited series than a movie – Handmaid’s Tale, His Dark Materials, or Noughts + Crosses – the visualization of this high-concept story about a girl in an enchanted forest is riveting and far exceeds its budget level.
At 116 minutes, Vesper 2022 is an intriguing business proposition. After its world premiere in Competition at Karlovy Vary (followed by a screening of Fantasia), it will be out via IFC in the US at the end of September, and other key territorial deals have been signed (Signature in the UK, for instance). Vesper will certainly spark interest, but how this property can be built is the main underlying question for Frenchman Bruno Samper and Lithuanian Krstina Buozyte.
There are no names in this English-language feature film shot in Lithuania by writer-directors Buozyte and Samper. Its British cast is led by Eddie Marsan and newcomers Raffiella Chapman and Rosy McEwen: all solid and working with sympathy for the environment they’re thrown into, a post-war world, but rural, not industrial. Thirteen-year-old Vesper (Chapman) lives in a Brothers Grimm farmhouse in the woods, amidst lush greenery where everything is alive and possibly conscious, or close enough to it. The seeds hold the key to her future, but danger surrounds them.
The square floating robot that follows Vesper through the forest, giving instructions and warnings, is actually her father (Richard Brake), an ex-soldier who remains asleep in his bed at home while his mind accompanies Vesper on her travels. of the. Like everything in this movie, which is usually portrayed as inanimate, the robot has a fleshy core, as do the giant jellyfish-like drones that flutter through the forest. When it crashes, it vomits up the mysterious Camellia (McEwen); Opportunistic suckers find her and begin feeding on her flesh until Vesper arrives to rescue her, putting her own life in danger.
The power structure is clear. Camelia comes from the Citadel, although there are many Citadels. The elite ruling classes in these strongholds feed on the blood of children, giving rise to a substructure of power in the form of a baby farm run by Vesper’s brutal “Uncle” Leo (Marsan) in the woods. He lives here with a wild, inbred gang of his own children, all unwitting donors: he trades her blood for seeds. When headstrong Vesper steals some, she unknowingly sets off a chain reaction.