Film Review: A Unique and Darkly Animated World in “Metropia”

Written by Film, Film Reviews

In the not too distant future, the earth is overpopulated and running out of oil. In Europe the underground train systems have been connected into one gigantic subway and run by a mega corporation. It’s a bleak world; very gray, where everyone, save for the obscenely rich, never manage a smile. Metropia is a unique animated film out of Sweden directed by Tarik Saleh, one that uses technology and the singular vision of the director to create a work of art with mixed results.

In the film, Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo), is an average worker from Stockholm. One morning he leaves his tiny, one-room apartment that he shares with his TV addicted girlfriend, and heads for work. On the way, he begins hearing a man’s voice in his head. It’s not a hallucination; Roger actually has someone speaking to him in his mind. How is that possible? Roger asks the voice these questions. The more questions Roger asks, the deeper he gets into a dark conspiracy and the terrifying secret that every aspect of his life (and the lives of the rest of the working class) is being controlled and monitored.

At the same time, Roger also meets Nina (Juliette Lewis) a model famous for having her picture on the world’s number one dandruff shampoo. As he has often fantasized to Nina’s image, Roger follows her. She confronts Roger; and then takes pity on him. Nina becomes his accomplice, helping him find the answers to the voice in his head and more.

Metropia is a tale of a dystopian world that contains obvious shades of George Orwell and Phillip K. Dick. An oppressive corporation and the intrusive technology it uses to invade your privacy are right out of 1984 and Dick’s best paranoid short stories. The script does a good job of zeroing in on the themes it wishes to cover, however it lags in places, with moments of tediousness. In other places the plot jumps around without really connecting. The performances by the voice actors are all outstanding. Gallo can sometimes be polarizing in his live action films. However, in Metropia his performance is effective. Lewis’s voice comes off a little wooden in the film, but I have a feeling she was directed that way to capture her character’s soul sucked life. The cast also includes the great Stellan Skarsgård and his equally talented son, Alexander.

On any other occasion I would tell you to proceed with caution when watching a movie like Metropia. However, this is an animated film that has such a distinct and unique style that it’s a must for any fan of animation or anyone who enjoys stunning visuals. Director Saleh’s vision involved using an animated process that takes actual photographs, alters them in a heavily stylized manner, and then animates them in the computer. One look at the film’s trailer and you’ll know what I mean. As I said, the look is distinct and if you’re a fan of animated films, especially that rarity- adult animation- you may want to check it out.

Metroipia was a selection for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The filmmakers struck a deal with the festival to make this film immediately available through streaming on You Tube until June 16th. You can access it here.

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