I noticed that it was directed by Marc Caro, and that had my interest piqued too, with Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children standing out, I was sure that Dante 01 was going to have me engaged from the beginning, and I was right.
However no one could have expected the events that are about to occur and just what would happen when this “infected” prisoner is let lose on the rest of the prison colony.
Dante 01 looks superb. That's the first thing that strikes you about the film. There's very much a feeling of Alien in the cinematography, dark, deliberate and claustrophobic. The lighting, effects and cinematography are very strong and make this look like a top budget science fiction film.
There are some wonderful visuals which seem epic and expansive, coming together with the internal shots to provide that feeling of isolation, emptiness and claustrophobia. It does exactly what Alien did and does it superbly well.
The styling in the film doesn't just end with the camera shots though, there's a style throughout the film, from the clothing through to the effects, even with the characters and the dialogue.
There are a number of computer effects used in the film, and while they are complex and modern, rather than the retro and basic styling we saw with Alien, they are much more advanced than we would expect. Typically these kind of scenes can overpower a film and take away from the actors and the characters, that's not allowed to happen here, and while they may retain your eye for a while, they are not held as the focus and are never out of sync with the film style.
Each of the characters in the film also have their own style and characteristics, No two characters are the same, or react the same, and their style carries through the film without wavering for some plot twist as so many films do.
The actors fill these roles perfectly and carry a great sense of timing and pace, as does the film itself. There are a couple of great actors in here and they all have some strong moments for them to perform. However it was probably Lambert Wilson that surprised me the most as his performance as the new prisoner is the least vocal. In fact he has very few lines and his performance is almost completely physical and portrayed through his body's reactions and his facial expressions, and perhaps surprisingly he gives the best performance of the film. He's utterly convincing in the role.
Dominique Pinon is also very good as the leader of the prisoners aboard the space station, and performances we've seen from him before can often be over the top or have some trait, or traits, that are expanded and sometimes blown up for the big screen. However here he plays a role where he holds back rather than taking on that big character, and it works well, allowing him to give a strong and realistic performance.
The story works really well for the most part. With the wonderful visuals and the great characters it really does grab you on every level and pull you in. One of the strong aspects of the story is the fact that you join the other characters in not knowing what is going on and you discover the story as they do.
However near the end it feels as though it tries to be too epic all of a sudden. It breaks away from the small character based film it was doing so well and leaps into something more akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and really it doesn't feel suited for that type of film.
The final effects shot carries on far too long and I manage to get the symbolism in the opening few frames and didn't need to see it repeated again and again from different angles.
It's confusing and does seem to drop the ball with the story it had been developing all this time. I felt it was a let down from the mysteries it had been developing up to this point, and I do understand the connection, but it just seems too big, too much of a leap, all too quickly.
It really feels as though they had run out of ideas of what to do with the ending and had this big effects shot that wasn't working. As though, rather than do something with the character evolution, they've just leapt to a big final solution.
I felt there were some big transitions and character progressions missing at the end of the film, and that really harmed the story.
As I said before the thing that really stands out about this film is the cinematography. There's a great use of framing in such a confined space switching to some epic space shots which manage to keep that claustrophobic feel to the film despite showing the emptiness and vastness of space. With the excellent use of lighting and effects and a strong quality picture throughout, this came through upscaling to 1080p wonderfully and held a great colour and style throughout.
There was a little lapse of darkness levels during the control room scene at the end where the darkness levels dropped and the picture suffered somewhat, however through the rest of the film the darkness levels were great and the use of lighting and framing superb.
Dolby Digital 5.1
Speaker movement was strong on the 5.1 audio track, with a strong sense of movement across the room and around you, not just passing between the front and rear speakers. Ambient and environmental sounds were used throughout and could be heard from all around and across speakers, again not just relying on the rears. I thought there was great use made of the audio capabilities of a home cinema system, and it really did compliment the film and make you feel immersed in the environments.
Making of featurette
This is a very informative featurette which gives a lot of behind the scenes footage and information, particularly as it talks a lot to the actors, director and producer about the film and the production process.
We get to have some time with Lambert Wilson talking about his character and how he handled some key scenes, mixing this with the behind the scenes footage of him actually on the scene itself. There's also a similar approach for the other actors, although understandably Wilson receives more screen time.
The director and producer talk about the work of storyboarding, the story itself, as well as trying to explain the ending a little, and the performances themselves. What's interesting is that there's a lot of time spent on explaining the eating scenes and what they meant, which was all well and good but I felt what needed the more explanation was the ending and the transition to the ending from these scenes.
Finally we get some time spent on the illustrations that went on to the model team to create the special effects for many of the outside space sequences.
The film brings up some great story ideas and plot threads, but there's a feeling that they, and the excellent characters we are connected with, are left in favour of a big, cinematic, supernatural and open ended conclusion, one that doesn't feel that it fits with the rest of the film.
However the film does look fantastic, and for most of it the story is excellent with characters and situations that I really found absorbing.
The DVD is a bit light on extras, but it's a strong transfer with a very good audio track.
All in all it's a worthwhile film for science fiction fans, but it could have been a lot more.