VESPER (2022) [Grimmfest 2022 Review]

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VESPER (2022)
Directed by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper
Screened at Grimmfest 2022
Vesper is in cinemas and on demand 21st October 2022

VESPER is set in a future ravaged by man-made viruses and organisms that wiped out animals, food supplies and a large percentage of the population. In a bid to prevent ecological disaster, humanity caused one. The surviving human society is split, with the rich and elite living in citadels whilst the rest of humanity must scrape and salvage what they can to survive. The peasants’ only food source is provided by seed traded by the citadel. However, with the seed coded to produce only one harvest, their food supply is neither guaranteed nor everlasting.

In one of the peasant camps, a teenage girl named Vesper discovers an injured woman in the woods. Discovering she’s from the citadel, Vesper hopes she might be the ticket to a better life for her and her sick father, but the woman is not all she seems…

Dystopian sci-fi fantasy VESPER is a sombre look at a future with little hope, but one teenage girl hopes to change all that.

Like many dystopian films before it, The Hunger Games just one example, VESPER plays on the idea of the elite keeping the poor in their place by living the high life in the citadels using artificially intelligent JUGS as their worker bees. These JUGS are much easier to control than humans, who could cause an uprising, so the rest of humanity is kept in their place, on the brink of starvation or serving in the citadels armies as cannon fodder. Outside of the citadels, humans are essentially left to perish, either through starvation or by each other’s hand. Groups of people have split off into their own little societies, some who scavenge and salvage, whilst others turn to religion. In the story, we see Vesper’s uncle running his own group of villagers, but Vesper and her dad decide not to be a part of it, and for good reason.

A main core of the film is Vesper trying to save her ailing father who’s on a type of life-support machine but who’s consciousness floats around in a drone that accompanies Vesper on her travels. Her main goal in life is to be able to engineer food for their community to live off, and although she’s made some headway experimenting with plants, growing seed is proving that bit trickier.

After Vesper rescues injured stranger Camellia, we see how their relationship play out as she becomes a female rolemodel in Vesper’s life, something she desperately needs since the death of her mother. It’s also some company outside of her father as she lives the solitary life in her wooden cabin. The alternative is living with her uncle Jonas but he appears to rule the community with an iron fist, trading favours for favours and seeing women as nothing more than a “breeder”, to quote Vesper. As if living under the citadels was bad enough, one of their own, a relative at that, is controlling their lives, holding resources back from the people that need in order to control the peasants. It’s a pretty doomed situation to be in and is sometimes quite bleak to watch.

VESPER is an ambitious movie that has bundles to say about the ecology, greed and other societal elements, but does so through the story of one girl’s struggle and hope for the future. It’s clear that the filmmakers have put their heart and soul into the project. Whilst CGI has been used to add and enhance where necessary, a lot of the effects are actually practical, and with sets created purely for the film. The fantasy future that has been crafted feels much realer and tangible as a result, utilising some stunning location shots to give the world some extra depth.

A determined performance from lead Rafella Chapman, with support from stalwarts such as Eddie Marsan as Uncle Jonas, Richard Brake as Vesper’s father, Darius and Rosy McEwan as Camellia, makes for a convincing watch. However, the pensive plot lacks at times with what feels like treading the same ground repeatedly. The excitement factor is few and far between, which means there’s times when the story plods along, making the almost two hour running time feel that much longer.

Without a doubt, the filmmakers have created a thought-provoking fantasy sci-fi movie, but the bleak atmosphere and stench of despair lingers a little too much.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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About Bat 4344 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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