THE PLOT THUS FAR
A man regains consciousness at the bottom of a cave, with no concept of how he arrived there, nor any idea who the dead man is at his side. Only one thing is certain – he has to escape the menacing creature that’s pursuing him. His journey back to the surface takes him through a cemetery – like world that s been abandoned by a mysterious organization called Eden Log.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Eden Log is structured like a video game. Our amnesiac hero (if, indeed, he is a hero) ascends through different levels of tree roots, mud and machinery, on the way receiving obscure clues and fragments of information, facing various opponents (ferocious subterranean mutant workers, ambiguous technicians, and armed guards from the surface) and having to come to terms with his own unique status in the world of Eden Log.
Mood is key here. The wonderful underground sets drip with atmosphere, and have been shot with filmstock so utterly desaturated that it takes a while to realise there is any colour at all. The protagonist spends the first ten minutes of the film grunting incoherently, and even when he begins to speak, asks questions rather than making statements. Such action as there is tends to be impressionistic instead of graphic, and even the explanations offered by the technicians are fragmented and allusive.
There is a lot going on here. Vestiel’s stylishly bleak parable of paradise lost dramatises humankind’s unbounded capacity to exploit everything, including other humans. Its world is divided into all-too-recognisable hierarchies of haves and have-nots, and while these may be as old (in SF terms) as HG Wells’ novella The Time Machine (1895) and Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking film Metropolis (1927), the arresting image here of the ‘strange fruit’ engendered by slavery is utterly original. Meanwhile Vestiel’s Tree of Life taps into current preoccupations with the environment (with mankind at the root of all evil), while also pointing to all manner of religious archetypes.