There's nothing better than taking a gamble on a film and having it pay off big time. There's no better place for this to happen than a film festival - with a varied collection such as the Melbourne International Film Festival, you browse through the program until a synopsis piques your interest. Sometimes it's a miserable failure, sometimes it's enjoyable but ultimately unexceptional - but sometimes it brings life and freshness to the cinematic experience. 'Jupiter's Moon' was this kind of experience for me.
The story starts following a group of Syrian refugees fleeing their country. Young Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) and his father (David Yengibarian) are both on board a boat set for Europe. Yet Hungarian immigration officials ambush the boats, leading to bloodshed and the refugees fleeing for their lives. Aryan is separated form his father and pursued by camp director László (György Cserhalmi), who shoots him point-blank three times. Yet something miraculous happens - Aryan remarkably begins to levitate off the ground and float high above the forest, unbeknownst to anyone. Taken to the camp hospital to have his wounds looked at by Gabor Stern (Merab Ninidze), the doctor learns of the boy's fantastical power, and helps his to escape. The pair are pursued by the authorities, as they fight to stay under the radar and for their freedom.
'JUPITER'S MOON' TRAILER
Where to begin; this is a film loaded with so many messages. There’s the comments on the European refugee crisis and their treatment by certain countries, questions over the concept of faith in the modern age, and lessons on sacrificing everything for the ones you love. Kata Wéber’s screenplay does it all with remarkable ease and finesse, never really delivering judgement, yet not afraid to shy away from the horrific conditions that these refugees endure. The Dr Stern story arc from selfish, pompous arse to compassionate father figure is also quite natural, and one adorned with remorse and regret.
Yet just as equally, this is a superhero action film, full of immensely tense chase sequences, dramatic revelations, and impressively bold gravity-defying feats. It’s phenomenal the way it balances these extremely potent messages and this jaw-dropping entertainment, putting anything you’ve seen from Marvel or DC to shame. The tenacity and audaciousness of blending these elements is extreme, yet ‘Jupiter’s Moon’ presents them as a seamless spectacle.
For a film where the premise is a kid who can levitate, the cinematography does not let the story down. Director Kornél Mundruczó and DOP Marcell Rév (both of whom worked on the Cannes winner ‘White God’) have crafted an immaculate work of art, offering a film with possibly the best cinematography I have ever witnessed on film. Shot on Kodak 35mm, it’s vibrant and alive - but all the more ambitious with its lengthy shots which flit in and out of doorways, around rooms and follow different characters for frequently minutes at a time. With the levitation, the camera just seems to drift effortlessly along with Aryan, spinning upside down and in every direction in stunning cinematic movement. It’s mind-boggling, not just for the stunning beauty of these sequences, but for the simple fact it’s just impossible to work out how they actually shot it.
It’s mind-boggling, not just for the stunning beauty of these sequences, but for the simple fact it’s just impossible to work out how they actually shot it.
In no way do the film’s performances let the film down. Merab Ninidze as the fallen doctor brings a much-needed gravitas to the film, whilst also offering well-delivered one-liners to lift the mood. His aforementioned transformation is natural and unforced, and the final relationship between Stern and Aryan is truly touching. György Cserhalmi is slimy and despicable as the film’s villain; far more than just running an undesirable refugee camp, he’s corrupt and willing to do anything to cover up his tracks. Undoubtedly though, Zsombor Jéger is the light and radiance of this film; a virtual unknown and with only three small previous credits to his name, he bears the weight of this film on his shoulders and delivers a moving, visceral performance. He’s wonderful to watch, both in dealing with emotionally tense moments and in awe whilst floating far above the ground.
There are so many other worthy parts to this film: Mónika Balsai as Stern’s girlfriend Vera, the Hollywood-worthy sequences with the attack on the refugees and the train station, incomprehensible car chases, a top-notch moving score from Jed Kurzel, and, my god, the ending. It culminates into an overwhelming experience that’s remarkable, nuanced and elegant. This is film as both art and entertainment melded together in the most superb way, fascinating and unparalleled in its story and storytelling methods. It’s both an escape from reality, and at the same time, far too real. At all costs, track down ‘Jupiter’s Moon’ and experience it for yourself.