The Final Land (Das letzte Land)

Two mismatched men in a hostile environment, an escaped prisoner and the guard who hunts him, find themselves face to face in the only shelter available from the endlessly blowing wind of the Black Desert, a small spaceship abandoned for unknown reasons and sat neglected and rusting since who knows when?

They have choices; the guard can take him back in, or they can fight over the ship and most likely the guard will win in either case as he is armed, or they can work together in an attempt to launch and escape together from what is effectively a life sentence for both of them, though on different sides of the cell doors.

The debut feature of Marcel Barion, premiered at the Sci-Fi London film festival, he serves as writer, producer, director, cinematographer, editor and producer on The Final Land (Das letzte Land) and also contributed visual and special effects, sound and soundtrack and production design, perhaps helping to explain how he has managed to create a feature length film of solid production values for a modest budget of $20,000.

Torben Föllmer is former prisoner Adem while Milan Pešl is former guard Novak, unprepared to change the nature of their relationship despite the upending of their situation and their grudging reliance on each other, taciturn and refusing discussion of their options or long-term goals, paranoid and aggressive when challenged.

Novak’s determination to follow a signal taking them out beyond their charts becoming an obsession, Adem has a more rational but elusive goal in mind, investigating the ship and its erratic log entries which he hopes may lead to the near-mythical planet Earth and piecing together clues which may tell of the fate of the previous crew.

Filmed on a single cramped practical set, the tiny ship is as much a character as the titular vessels in Dark Star or Serenity and it owes much to them, the smell of rust, decay and fused circuits almost palpable in the gloom illuminated only by the coloured buttons on the control panels and flickering display screens offering minimalist wireframe graphics and all-too-frequent circuit overloads.

Another touchstone in the design and style is Alien in the omnipresent threat of the emptiness of space, an isolation which may be preferable to the darkened hulk of a vast space station, apparently derelict, which their course leads them past, and in the space-suited descent into the caverns of their ultimate destination.

Despite the technical achievements which cannot be faulted, what The Final Land lacks is any sense of urgency or a reason to care about Adem or Novak who resolutely refuse to open up to each other or the audience, matching the silence of the darkness around them as they move to a destination and finale as frustratingly opaque as the impulses which have taken them their fate.

The Final Land had its UK premiere at the Sci-Fi London film festival on 19th May