This movie took seven years to make and inspired a TED talk about how to make an "impossible" film. It's also one of the most beautiful, and immersive, science fiction worlds on film. Check out the bizarre futuristic love story Mars & Avril.
An aging musician plays music on instruments modeled on parts of women's bodies. A young woman begins to fall in love with him, and he returns her love. Meanwhile, the world is eagerly watching accounts of the first manned mission to Mars. That's "what's going on" in Mars & Avril, but it's not exactly the plot. Although the French-language film avoids sprawl, keeping itself to a tight ninety-one minutes, it doesn't follow a single plot so much as show two people's story, and examine that story's various complications. For example, the man who makes the instruments that Jacob, the musician, plays on also falls in love with the woman - the eponymous Avril. He is much younger than Jacob and the son of a scientist who believes that the trip to Mars is impossible. The scientist doesn't think that traveling to Mars' location is impossible. He thinks that Mars doesn't exist - it's a cultural hallucination.
These are the kinds of turns you take as you take a tour of the world of Mars & Avril. The audience looks at a world where public transportation means teleportation - a process that's mystical but managed by the same infuriating bureaucracy that manages public transportation now. Doctors with facial tattoos prescribe falling in love as a tested scientific cure, not holistic woo. Music stops time. There is plenty of magical realism in the movie, and there is also plenty of traditional science fiction tropes - like the mission to Mars. There's even some humor, as the astronauts broadcast back to Earth their growing disenchantment with their explorations.
A few things in Mars & Avril that may inspire some eye-rolling. A much-younger woman falling in love with a mysterious older man is very familiar ground. The idea is strained further by the fact that Jacob, the man everyone considers an unstoppable sexual dynamo, looks like the personification of a Mouse Guard character. Playing instruments based on women's bodies can be poetic, but can also be (literally) objectifying.
That being said, Mars & Avril is a movie that will surprise you. It has to, as every time it seems to go one way, it will twist off in a new direction. It will also give your eyes a good time. It was written, produced, and directed by Martin Villeneuve, who explained in his TED talk that time and effort can make up for a lack of money when making an ambitious film. The costumes, the sets, and the backgrounds of Mars & Avril are spectacular. It doesn't look like a big-budget movie, which these days offer up too many cookie-cutter cityscapes. It looks beautiful and it looks different. If you're looking for different, you should probably check the film out.
Mars & Avril is available at Gaiam TV. Settle into a warm spot on the couch, bolt the windows against the cold, and check it out.