The Book (2010)

Subtitled “They Came From Inner Space”, and there’s no screengrabs in this review, as the title is too generic for me to find any

This feels like a step back into my youth. As a teenager, thanks to Channel 4 in the UK, I saw more garishly coloured indie films than may have been good for me, so much so that it was difficult to shake off the impression I was watching some no-budget cinema of transgression film from the late 80s, and not oddly sweet sci fi from 2010.

It turns out there’s a book, and it changes the human race into happier, less aggressive, less bigoted people. In 2284, a group of beings emerge from “inner space”, take on human form, give us this book and then disappear again. We start off in 2484, and wouldn’t you know it? There’s a group of dissidents. Some people just don’t want happiness, it seems. Anyway, they’re led deep underground by their rebellion contact, to a large room with other dissidents, and they’re told they’re going to be sent back in time to observe the beginnings of man’s subjugation by the book…for some reason. Maybe it’d be like showing Tea Party activists the day that equal rights legislation was signed into law, to make them good and angry for the fight. The film disguises its low budget very well, with unusual camera angles, bright unusual lighting, over-the-top makeup and papier mache “caves”.

2284 is then seen, the people we expected to be the film’s protagonists disappear from the movie never to return, and most of the rest of the film becomes the lowest-energy heist movie of all time, as a sci-fi author and his family are body-snatched by the inner-space beings so the author’s next novel can be replaced with “The Book”. There’s a smidgeon of farce when the publisher comes round for a drink, and the “real” versions of the people have to be kept out of sight, but it’s mostly about the beings trying to fit into humanity for long enough to get the book out there. We hear their inner-dialogue with each other, and it’s full of funny misunderstandings about the world of solid matter from people who’ve never really experienced it before – the writing was well done in this regard. I can’t help but feel there’d have been an easier way for the inner-spacers to achieve their goal in this regard, but I shouldn’t complain too much…we’re also treated to more unusual colour schemes and odd names for previously familiar ideas and products (champagne has been champagne for centuries, why would they start calling it “Fizzee” or whatever in the 2200s?).

The implication to me is that “The Book” is what the Bible or Koran (or “Dianetics”, if you’re an idiot) would be like, if they had actual magic powers to change peoples’ minds. We only see one person read the book, and he’s zapped by a dog from inner-space ten seconds later, so what the book actually does to us is mercifully left to the imagination. The question that’s posed is should we be okay at living like this? Yes, is the simple answer, but the reason for the dissidents’ existence is a nice little laugh at the end of the film.

The acting is wooden in places (deliberately so) and there’s a heavy layer of unreality over proceedings (deliberate again, one would imagine) and despite pondering it for quite some time, I’m still not sure if it’s very good or not. I’ve been reading about it, and director / writer / producer / editor / everything else Richard Weiss clearly took a lot of time and effort to craft this film, from the very specific camera angles and positioning to the sets and clothing worn by everyone. This was his first film, which is even more impressive, and I look forward to his future efforts. This film, in places, feels like some Peter Greenaway / Kenneth Anger collaboration (although Greenaway only for some of the compositions, and Anger would never have made a film this narratively straightforward), although the film’s website lists a bunch of influences I don’t feel had anything to do with how the film turned out. The quality of the film stock really places it in that early-90s low-budget milieu I mentioned before, so much so that I’m still not convinced it’s a film from that era which was dusted off and re-released.

Visit http://www.thebook-themovie.com to buy your own signed copy of the DVD, as although I’m still pondering it, films that make you think are worth their weight in gold and should be rewarded.

The Book on IMDB

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