Film of the week: Spaceship takes a trip to a more vibrant dimension

Alex Taylor’s debut feature is a psychedelic, part-improvised tale of dreamy teenagers looking for lift-off.

Philip Kemp

from our June 2017 issue

Spaceship (2016)

The one thing that doesn’t show up in Alex Taylor’s debut feature Spaceship – is a spaceship. But quite a lot of other assorted things do. Including, in no particular order – it’s rather that kind of film – cybergoths, punks, hipsters, vampires, unicorns, alien abductions, push-upping squaddies, BDSM slave-collars, stone circles, chamber tombs, disused army tanks, an ice rink, Day-Glo makeup, druggy trips, psychedelic imagery and any amount of rambling, inconsequential dialogue.

Spaceship follows on from Taylor’s three shorts, Kids Might Fly (2009), Release the Flying Monkeys (2010) and Spaceship (2012) – the latter not so much a dry run for the feature-length film as a briefer exploration of parallel territory. In all three, as in the feature, Taylor has given teenagers “space… to say what they wanted”, frequently allowing them to improvise their own dialogue. The results are often divertingly quirky: in Flying Monkeys, two pious young Albanian women are called in to exorcise a tortoise that’s become addicted to heavy metal; in the Spaceship short, a young man suggests that aliens are really Italians, since “the Roman Empire didn’t collapse, it just took off into outer space” – which, he adds, is why abductions most frequently occur in the pasta aisle of supermarkets.

Spaceship (2016)

This style of off-the-wall dialogue persists into the feature. Lucidia (Alexa Davies from Caitlin Moran’s Raised by Wolves), the nearest to a heroine on offer, describes her late, probably suicided mother as being “like a Barbie doll on speed”; meanwhile her unicorn-obsessed friend Tegan (Lara Peake) explains the rarity of such creatures by telling us: “The unicorn has to get through all the nuclear rainbows.”

Most of the characters seem to exist in a state of undefined longing – “I just want the way out,” Tegan yearns – and any form of escape is seen as good. The dominant Alice (Tallulah Haddon), who totes her sub blond boyfriend around on a collar and leash and gets him to bark, comments on hearing that Lucidia has been “sucked into another dimension”: “I can’t miss her – I envy her.”

Channelling elements of Gregg Araki, Gaspar Noé and Harmony Korine, Taylor submerges all this in a wealth of saturated colour, melancholic poetry, an eclectic music track – including an Incredible String Band number, no less – and vibrant visual effects. His generously inclusive camera allows secondary characters – a squaddie seeking a disco-dancing youth in a cave, a self-styled ‘creator’ of a ‘new breed’ of flight-endowed humans – to expound their woozy personal visions. And for all the intimations of death wish, his film meanders its way to an unexpectedly gentle, warmly optimistic conclusion.

 

 

Watch Alex Taylor’s short films

Kids Might Fly (2009)

Release the Flying Monkeys (2010)

Spaceship (2012)

  • Sight & Sound: the June 2017 issue

    Sight & Sound: the June 2017 issue

    The return of Twin Peaks, The Red Turtle, My Life as a Courgette, François Ozon’s Frantz, Buñuel at the opera, Daughters of the Dust and the black...

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