by: Alberto Sclaverano
Vesper is a 2022 science fiction film made in Europe. It has been financed thanks to a co-production between France, Belgium, and Lithuania. After six years in the making, it was finally shot in Vilnius, Lithuania, on a five-million euros budget. The film is directed by Lithuanian filmmaker Kristina Buožytė, alongside longtime partner director and multimedia designer Bruno Samper.
Vesper is set in a not-so-distant future when the Earth’s ecosystem has completely collapsed. The reason is that humankind tried to stop the ecological crisis using genetic manipulation, but that led to the massive spread of engineered organisms and dangerous viruses, which have changed life on Earth and consumed most vegetables. Now rich people live in protected areas, the “citadels” (often described, but never actually shown in the movie), while the rest of the surviving population fights for its life in a Middle Age-like world. Seeds and plants are now the most precious thing, and they are exchanged for food with the inhabitants of the citadels. The main character, a young girl named Vesper, played by Raffiella Chapman, lives with her paralyzed father Darius, played by Richard Brake.
I won’t tell you the other plot’s details. What is important to underline is that the movie contains elements fairly typical of the post-apocalyptic subgenre. For example, it shares similarities with Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium but the description of the future is fascinating, and its ecological message is fresh and spot on. Vesper’s world is a nightmare, full of mutations and creatures that could fit well in David Cronenberg’s films, but it does include brief moments of beauty (at some point bioluminescent life forms closely reminds us of James Cameron’s Avatar). It is a world in which the alteration of the natural ecosystem by mankind has reached a no-return point, and its consequences are paid by everyone, apart from the richest ones who have isolated themselves, showing no compassion for the rest of humanity. Vesper criticizes the incapacity of acting quickly to stop the climate crisis until of course it is too late and the choices become extreme, but it also denounces the excesses that genetic manipulation can produce if it is not done under control.
The two directors want to stress the bond between human beings and nature and the fact that human beings are connected to the Earth’s ecosystem. Destroying the Earth means also imperiling the existence of humankind. Vesper is a beautiful, sad film, a sort of dark fairy tale in which our young character acts like she is in Alice in Wonderland, but in a world that is not wonderful but dangerous and decaying. It helps us to reflect on social and class differences, that seem bound to stay even after the end of the world, and in the pessimistic approach of the directors can only widen after the end of human civilization. Vesper proves that an independent European production can achieve fantastical results in terms of technical qualities while remaining an auteur film at its core. It is now being distributed in several EU countries, and it is also available for online purchase in the United States. The film is an excellent antidote to some of today’s movies which have incredible special effects but lack true heart. Vesper instead combines perfectly the visual impact with a poignant and deep reflection on the climate crisis and our future.