(Aparelho Voador a Baixa Altitude)
Solveig Nordlung, Sweden/Portugal, 2002
Tuesday 7 October 2003 10.30pm-11.50pm
"Something is terribly wrong," mutters the beautiful Laura Foster part way through Low-Flying Aircraft, ominously delivering the understatement of the film. Laura and her husband André live in a world governed by an Orwellian dictatorship known as the Confederation. Births require a 'Fit for Life' license and 'illegally' pregnant women are arrested by gangs of armed guards.
Only genetically perfect babies are acceptable, but Laura endures her pregnancy in private, after having what her husband describes as "six... interruptions". A mysterious doctor informs her that the baby in her womb is perfect, but slowly, shockingly, it emerges that Laura could be carrying "a monster", a creature as grotesque as the world it will be entering.
Low-Flying Aircraft is based on the JG Ballard story of the same name. Director Solveig Nordlung ensures the setting is more naturalistic and recognisable than the steel world where the original tale is set, and this blending of familiar sights - decrepit hotels, clear blue swimming pools and polluted beaches - heightens the horror of the differences which define this nightmarish vision of the future.
The film, which received its UK premier in December 2002, is shot with flair and imagination by Nordlung, who confidently blends elements of science fiction, horror and a love story to fashion a powerful but surprisingly warm parable. He's ably assisted by Margarida Marinho as Laura, who delivers an entrancing and credible performance.
Ballard once commented that "...low-flying aircraft are always flying over Shepperton, [his home since 1960] and still are", which may explain their habitual presence in his works, notably Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women. But here, they ultimately represent a chance for a better future and enlightenment. This element typifies the sense that Low-Flying Aircraft is not simply another totally bleak and apocalyptic movie. Beauty, kindness and the resolve to rebel still persist in this frightening world. In other words, hope remains.