Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw, Poland
Film review by Volkmar Schorcht
Communication par excellence!
Communication drives our lives. This is the essence of »Hello Earth«, a production from the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, and describes what this 30-minute film is about: the beginnings, the need, the opportunities and the future of our communication. Language is a prerequisite for joint action, a principle that introduces the subject in the example of the Tower to Babel. Clever is the idea, to stage the beginnings of the records of early man and the development of written language in caves like that of Lascaux from which we have knowledge of the earliest paintings. The minutes-long camera ride, starting from the Middle Ages, over five centuries of communication, I would rank as one of the best sequences ever produced in the dome format. It is elaborated with winking eyes and has a visual quality that sets standards. It is, at the same time, exciting and peppered with hidden humor. The pleasurable chapter on nonverbal communication, brought to the virtual stage with a comic-inspired style, deliberately breaks out of this pictorial language but does not stand up to the film’s own scale. For the more recent developments in mutual communication, longer camera shots with short time jumps are used. In the meantime, we as humans have done everything to draw attention to ourselves in space. Information overload, wireless communication and the Internet are the guard rails of modern life, with a stylized virtual city impressively arranged. The screenplay and audiovisual implementation testify to a very high level of professionalism.
Communication is a new topic in the Fulldome medium. This film, which is essentially a documentary with high entertainment value, is aimed at all age groups and illustrates extensive knowledge about the history of understanding, language and the interaction of humans composed of highly detailed graphics which can only be characterized as superb. Some scenes are continuously changing, almost imperceptibly, but always with regard to the dome projection. Other scenes, which contain brightly animated graphical elements in the space between the viewer and the background, serve as a transition. The latter, however, also creates more abstract content such as the creation of hieroglyphics and the alphabet. Over all, the film often uses self-luminous particles and line graphics for chapter transitions and illustrations. If you look for the few scenes of lesser quality on the dome, the Tower of Babel comes to mind. It appears flat and pale in the increasing daylight. A solitary island in a sea of blue is difficult on every dome. It is good that the saturation control has been increased quite a bit in the production process, making the images crisper. Some visual aspects appear playful and not accessible to the viewer: The hunting of the tigers, the serpent on the Bible, a monk reading the works of Karl Marx, dancing skeletons on the Voyager record… What’s missing from the show? If you will, the most humane communication ever: the human capacity for love and hatred, fidelity and treachery, truth and falsehood. Surely that would only be a subject for a full evening.
For me, the best part is taking the audience on a journey through five centuries of recorded history, beginning in a medieval writing room and ending in the large libraries of the 19th century. The camera splendidly guides the audience through rooms whose walls dissolve into darkness: through Gutenberg’s printing press and through bookshelves, each connected to a period in history easily recognizable by characteristic period props. The imaginative merging of the books as mere objects with their narratives and stories is almost perfectly achieved. It must have been fun to put the dinosaurs, knights, fire-spitting dragons, a wild car ride and a UFO into the library halls. The allusion to social media by means of small pictograms on the UFO sets the signs of the times. It is not only imaginative, but also graphically realized in an excellent fashion.
The film is unidirectionally oriented. In many scenes, however, the horizon is too high. While this is certainly optimal for the inclined domed theater in Warsaw it is quickly distracting for viewers in horizontal domes. The trained eye recognizes traces of postproduction with sharpness filters and color corrections, which should hardly be noticeable to the average viewer. On the contrary, the increased saturation and sharpness make the film on the dome appear more crisp.
The story is told by means of voice-over narration. The sympathetic male voice leads the audience through the chapters with neutral restraint. It does not push itself, nor does it hold back. The English narrative, although accent-free, has a small shortcoming. The pronunciation of a few sentences is incomprehensible. The film’s orchestral music and the excellent sound effects are also a self-production of the Copernicus Science Centre. They rank in the same class as its visual design and give the film its own note.
With its new production »Hello Earth«, directed by Paulina Majda, the Copernicus Science Centre reconfirms its position as a leading Fulldome film creator with an international standing. If the class of the first production, »Dream to Fly« from 2013, was a big surprise in the community, »Hello Earth« continues with this same quality and at the same time raises the bar for future productions. It is hoped that as many planetariums as possible will include »Hello Earth« in their program schedules.
11th FullDome Festival, Jena, May 19, 2017