“Ederlezi Rising” is a Serbian science fiction film, where in-your-face sex scenes and story’s crudeness blend with audiovisual experience inspired by “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
Milutin (Sebastian Cavazza) is hired by a huge corporation called Ederlezi to participate in a risky mission in space. His only companion is Nimani (Stoya) – a female android. Milutin develops feelings for Nimani, which not only questions his moral backbone, but also jeopardises the entire operation.
In the early 90s, science fiction was almost entirely associated with big budgets, aliens and Steven Spielberg. The audiences worldwide got used to that form of the genre as well. However, there has been a significant change over the course of these twenty years that have past. Science fiction has, thanks to the technology, become more achievable to smaller budgets too. Gates opened for the generations of talented filmmakers, who didn’t receive the solid financial backup, but brought their visionary style.
“Ederlezi Rising” reaches for the stars despite its small budget
Lazar Bodroza’s work is a recent proof of indie sci-fi getting more interest. It’s a film, where most of the action takes place in a very raw set design, almost as if symbolizing an interior of a ship and not actually constructing one.
It carries a heavy “Star Trek” vibe, but not only that. His science fiction darling bears the marks of some other pioneering American science fiction classics. Not only do the characters speak English (spiced up by the local accent), but the camera often jumps out of the spaceship to catch a glimpse of the vast galaxy, present the neon colours and drift among them.
These very moments are obviously a result of Bodroza’s fascination with Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but also “Interstellar”, “Armageddon” or even “Minority Report”. Bodroza blends rich, vivid images with dreary, solemn interiors. The ship represents a jail, where Milutin and Nimani remind of prisoners, sent somewhere far from home. Even though the outcome is not the same as in the aforementioned films, it’s admirable what Bodroza extracts from that contrast and how gracefully he learns from the classics.
The panache of the overwhelming space sketches a contrast to what Bodroza focuses on mostly – Milutin and Nimani’s weird affection for each other.
Again, it does ring a bell – while “Alien” franchise never sailed these waters, the androids were disturbingly human on many cinematic occasions. After Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to “Blade Runner”, the feelings of androids became quite a disturbing yet fascinating topic on its own. Not too far from these titles was also marvelous “Her” – a portrayal of platonic love that cannot be consumed by any imaginable means.
Bodies entwined in “Ederlezi Rising”
“Ederlezi Rising” treats love very vividly, if not to say visually. Milutin turns from an oversexed loner to a rapist, then into an ardent lover to finally become a broken victim of his own cravings. Along the way is a lot of sex scenes, which consume a decent part of Bodroza’s time. Here is where the problems begin.
While both Sebastian Cavazza and Stoya (a porn actress, who puts on a joyfully surprising performance) are confident, none of these characters has enough depth to carry the film alone. Nimani, quite understandably, lacks a complex background – similarly to Alicia Vikander’s character in “Ex Machina”. What’s different between these two are their counterparts. Milutin isn’t given enough time to blossom and his fixation on sex depraves him of deeper meaning. There is a feeling in the air that both Milutin and Nimani deserved a less black-and-white sketch and less sexually radical treatment.
As a consequence, Bodroza’s “Ederlezi Rising” too often falls for the trap of a pretentious variation on Lars von Trier’s film in space. Eventually, graphic nudity simply becomes less shocking with each consecutive scene.
Nonetheless, “Ederlezi Rising” is not to be understood as a complete failure. Even if the story lacks meat, there is still plenty of “the good stuff” to be happy about. I was in awe while watching the final sequences of the film – the heroic, Hollywood-like topping, with a marvelous soundtrack and cinematography. Again – as an audiovisual product, “Ederlezi Rising” is quite sensational. For its small budget, it delivers much more than it could be expected.
Ederlezi Rising (2018)
Dir. Lazar Bodroza
Hate Grade: 4/10
Overall Score: Though its nauseating fascination with sex feels heavy, “Ederlezi Rising” is defined by marvellous visuals and heart-felt soundtrack that both enrich the experience.
Ederlezi Rising (2018) was one among top 10 Best Indie Films of 2018. See the rest of the list here.