There are 362,880 different ways to watch Nicolas Rey's differently, Molussia. Playing tonight at REDCAT at 8:30, with the filmmaker in person, this fictional documentary consists of nine discrete segments meant to be sequenced in a random order each time the film is shown.
Probability thus dictates that anyone in attendance for this particular screening will experience Molussia differently from anyone before them — or after, for that matter. This structural conceit alone makes Rey's adaptation of The Molussian Catacomb, Günther Anders' 1936 novel detailing a fascist society and those living under its authoritarian thrall, a unique viewing experience. That one can imagine any possible sequencing of the nine reels being as powerful as any other makes the complete work something more, something special.
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Shot on wonderfully grainy 16mm, the images are so tattered and ghostly as to resemble an actual historical artifact uncovered from the dreamed-up civilization of the title: imposing buildings whose grayness just slightly differentiates them from the washed-out sky dominate some sequences, while similarly monochrome landscapes evoke an eerie serenity in others. Though the structures men have built and elements they can't control abound, the leaders and citizens of Molussia are themselves glimpsed rarely and usually in passing. Voice-over narration answers some of the questions raised by these striking visuals — a series of clipped conversations between two political prisoners named Olo and Yegussa are both revealing and enigmatic — but not nearly enough to sap the film of its mystery and intrigue.
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