Ancarani’s Oceanic Astronauts Endure The Mundane For Dark Depths
There is a looming uneasiness within the claustrophobic deep sea diving station that is the world of Yuri Ancarani’s Platform Moon. Breathing a mix of oxygen and helium, a team of six underwater metal workers speak only with high pitched voices that would normally induce humor, but here it just seems strangely ominous. Though the men continue their repetitive daily tasks with a sense of detachment amidst the sterile sci-fi setting, something feels terribly wrong. Ancarani’s brief cliffhanger is an experiment in documentary storytelling that leads us to the bottom of the ocean, and let’s us decide for ourselves whether to sink or swim.
Quarters are tight here, and cameras rarely move. In long, stagnant takes we watch men try to rest while others move about the station, locking and unlocking port hole doors as they crawl through the narrow connective chambers. They check meters, and flip switches. Occasional orders from an off site commander are transmitted through an on board lo-fi PA system, and the oceanic astronauts respond accordingly. Everything about this project seems otherworldly. The only thing missing is the floating weightlessness of zero gravity. Instead, the workers proceed under the restrictions of gravity, despite the space suit-esque attire. When they finally descend into the depths, the water is overbearingly murky. Highly distorted, noise based music slowly takes hold, and there is something happening with a large mallet, and it all feels quite intense. What it all means is anyone’s guess.
One viewer at the film’s international premiere at Hot Docs argued that this wasn’t a documentary at all, but he obviously missed the fact that this is an actual underwater station where these people actually do live, and work. Despite shaping the story into an experimental equivocation, Ancarani did indeed capture real events as they took place. Ancarani’s true intention seems to be to test the boundaries of non-fiction cinema while displaying a profoundly odd job that reaches extremes of both boredom, and violence. His choice of alien subject matter, paired with a mainly observational style that shifts dramatically in the film’s finally climax, makes this a highly original production that really depends on your acceptance of ambiguity. We don’t find out exactly what was happening under the sea, but that’s not the point. Platform Moon is a slow building, goose-bump inducing art doc that rejects convention in favor of penetrating, cold suspense. Like it or not, you’ll surely remember it.
Reviewed at the 2012 Hot Docs Film Festival – Next section