Directed by Jérémie Péri, this incredible animated science fiction film, in competition at the Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma in Montréal, evokes a dystopian future. Balancing elements of cyberpunk, noir, and political espionage, the film was one of the most interesting visions to be found at the festival.
It is the year 2200. Aline Ruby, a stubborn private investigator, and Carlos Rivera, an android replica of her deceased partner, embark on a race against time across Mars. They must locate and rescue Jun Chow, a runaway cybernetics student, before the vicious assassins on her tail kill her.
Périn alternates between moments of investigation and action with sequences of pure psychedela. Aline has a complex and profound personality, which gradually emerges as the film progresses, culminating in a fascinating puzzle of characterization. We understand that Aline, as in many detective stories, becomes passionate about the case as a way to recompose the pieces of her life destroyed by alcohol and loss.
Mars Express is Périn’s first feature, a complex but also very dark work with a political vision that makes you think, offering a speculative reality in which men dominate robots and use them for their wildest pleasures and vices—representing the machinery that oppresses the colonized in all eras. Talking about the future to analyze the present is one of the most interesting aspects to the film. The story of the search for the lost woman, as in many films, serves as a metaphor for a careful analysis of tyrannical policies. But the protagonist’s personal story also immerses us in a world that, although apparently distant, seems very close to us. Science fiction proves once again to be one of the most suitable genres for social criticism.
Mars Express is rich in cinematographic and literary references: Blade Runner and the fictions of Philip K. Dick most obviously, but also Ghost in the Shell and lots of classic noir cinema. This is a dynamic visual experience that leaves its mark.
Andreina Di Sanzo
© FIPRESCI 2023