It was out of a sense of curiosity that I sought out a copy of Silent Running, the 1972 science fiction movie-with-a-message that is so often referenced by film critic Mark Kermode as one of his favourites. He had talked about the film’s influence on more recent works, including most notably Wall*E which is perhaps the most direct example.
My most prominent memory of Bruce Dern is from John Frankenheimer’s 1977 cult classic Black Sunday, shot through with Dern’s manic energy and menace. He has a particular quality that shows through in Silent Running as he plays Freeman Lowell as a character who earnestly takes on and defends his task of preserving natural life from on earth.
When you bear in mind that the director, Douglas Trumbull was the special effects supervisor of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey it’s perhaps a symptom of the budget he had for Silent Running that the special effects are so basic. Star Wars came only 5 years later but seems light years ahead, pun intended.
This can take some of the shine off the scene. Everything seems just a little too clunky, like Space 1999 filmed at the weekend. Perhaps from being so fond of Wall*E I did find myself sympathising with Lowell as he seeks to do the right thing in the face of orders to the contrary but I couldn’t give myself over to the film in the same way that its champions so obviously can. I found myself looking at the film, rather than truly watching.
When I want to be truly charmed by a film, I can always return to one of my favourites, many of which are listed in my own incomplete list, an I Am DB if you will….. No? OK, please yourself.