Under a Shipwrecked Moon

The partnership of Antero and Sylvi Alli has produced some remarkable projects. This husband and wife team have varied interests. Antero has been a professional astrologer and author as well as working in a Grotowski based "paratheatre". Sylvi has been a singer songwriter as well as actress and soundtrack composer in the several films they've made together. Antero's film interests came after his other pursuits later in the 1980s and have existed alongside them ever since. The body of work consists of shorts as well as feature length movies.

Though the films are made on a miniscule budget in varying formats, the subjects and the imaginative way they are handled does much to make up for this. One wonders what Antero and Sylvi might do with some real money backing a film. Still, the films created have a visionary charge and true commitment on the part of the actors and crew. They are indeed labors of love.

The films venture from science fiction ("Tragos,"and "The Drivetime") to biographical reference (as in the beautiful tribute to poet Rilke in "The Greater Circulation" or Antonin Artaud in "Invisible Forest"). Though all are fascinating in their own way, my choice for the best realized of the features is "Under a Shipwrecked Moon." It takes for its drama the return of Esko, an elderly man from Finland (Antero Alli himself is Finnish) to visit his estranged family in the United States to bring them gifts. Upon his arrival he collapses and is sent to an emergency room. The family visits Esko in the hospital and his presence brings to the surface long suppressed conflicts and dreams. A young man who experiments with ritual and drugs is convinced his grandfather is a shaman and has dreams about a mysterious woman (played by Sylvi Alli) who appears to initiate and guide him. The young man's mother has resurfaced resentments of abandonment. Esco's bitter brother demands to be paid back a loan from long ago and is rebuked by the young man. In recurring symbolic scenes ravens and hedgehogs are mythic rivals: the ravens gamblers and the hedgehogs stubborn, repressive -- and prickly. The remarkable final scene brings together all the principle characters at a dinner when the old man's gifts are opened and reveal a few meaningful surprises.

Though the story itself is strong and the performances convincing, what I most love about this one is its visual power. Abundant dream images (shot in super 8 film for texture) made my hair stand on end with their numinous impact. Computer effects expert Micheal McWhirter callaborated with Antero Alli after the material was shot and they created some stunning sequences. Unlike his experiments with improvised hand held camera (in "Hysteria"and the short "Roadkill"), the carefully lensed scenes in "Under a Shipwrecked Moon" are done with an artful eye without being distracting. And, as usual, Sylvi Alli's vocals and soundtrack scoring is essential to the overall spell of the picture.

The film is available directly from the filmmakers at their website.

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