This film — should you be lucky enough to see On the Silver Globe — is an exhausting, mad experience. An endurance test, but director Andrzej Jaroszewicz surely intended the film to affect audiences in such a way. I’m not saying it’s a hallmark film of his – his classic movie Possession (1981) takes the title as it breaks me every time I watch it due to the emotional intensity of its lead actors.
On the Silver Globe attacked my senses and mental well-being with its harrowing pace and images of mindless war. Noted torturer of audiences, Gaspar Noe, cites Jaroszewicz’s work in his recent film, Climax, for a reason — the two know how to drill into the minds of their viewers, and place something awful there.
So what is On the Silver Globe? The Austin Film Society (AFS) (who held the screening I attended) describes the film as “a mystical sci-fi parable of space messiahs and tribal warfare on a faraway planet,” and the film does indeed feel like it’s from another dimension. The locations are barren, with a hue of blue and gray. Wide-open spaces or cavernous tunnels hold horrific secrets. On top of sets and locales, everything seen and heard onscreen is directed at the viewer via first-person POV, so when a character goes on a mad rant, that rant is aimed at YOU.
And everyone in Globe has something to say. Think Hardcore Henry but years before “video game-like” would become the go-to descriptor for a movie where the audience is given commands, privy to secrets. Not that these two films are alike, camerawork aside. Honestly, I can’t think of anything I’ve seen that’s like Globe, and I’m at a disadvantage having only seen it once, with no further access. As a result, the whole experience seems like a dream, but I’ll do my best to relay it.
The historical aspect of Globe alone is enough to captivate. Portions of the film are lost to time, as Jaroszewicz fled Poland once the film was seen as a political attack. He left believing that the Polish government had destroyed all the reels. Thankfully this wasn’t the case, and Jaroszewicz eventually used the surviving — but unfinished — footage to piece together the film.
In this restoration, his narration often comes in to fill in the blanks, to make transitions. Surprisingly, this feels organic to the movie. Plus, the sections where he speaks to the viewer provides a breather from Globe’s frantic pacing and its barrage of strange imagery. In many ways, this patchwork quality using Jaroszewicz as glue gives the film a documentary feel, despite its strangeness.
Globe follows space explorers as they venture to another planet. They’re out to establish a new life, to overcome the trials and tribulations along the way (yes, like the Oregon Trail). The film shows the generations that follow initial colonization, while prophecies of a messiah figure soon become the focal point for many. There’s also a race of bird people (described as mutants) who participate in bloody rituals.
Make no mistake; this is “hard” sci-fi. The chosen people roam a barren landscape, with various unknown-to-us cultural artifacts, weapons, and clothing popping off the screen. This is also a violent film, a disorienting visual masterpiece that uses its visuals in striking ways. The narrative itself eluded me, to the point that I stopped trying to make sense of it, which sounds like a negative, but I don’t think it’s meant to be a straight narrative. The main POV “vessel” changes at least three times. When one character dies, the film moves on without them, now seen through the eyes of another. I don’t think Jaroszewicz wanted this to be an easy swallow, a casual watch before returning to our lives. Personally, that’s a trait I appreciate. Science Fiction shouldn’t always be easy to digest because it’s the unknown, the strange, that keeps us fascinated.
Does On the Silver Globe stand the test of time? Clearly this is a special case as it’s highly unlikely that more than a handful of people have seen it. For science fiction fans, this is a bit like Jerry Lewis’s fabled The Day the Clown Cried that’s yet to see the light of day. Jaroszewicz’s On the Silver Globe is a stowed-away masterpiece, both time capsule and soothsaying glimpse into the fog ahead. I feel honored to have sees it and hope for a physical release someday. I’ve heard rumors that a boutique label might have something in the works, so fingers crossed. Possession was worth the wait, and so is Globe.
If the chance to see On the Silver Globe presents itself, then you must go, even if you can’t make it through the entire film (the host of this particular screening elaborated on walk-outs during past showings). This is a historic release, and if you’re a fan of the cinema, seek this one out.
Have you attended a screening in your city? Been fortunate enough to catch the film in its entirety? If so, share your experience in the comments below!