Saturday, 25 June 2011

By Day And By Night ★★☆☆☆

This low budget Mexican Sci-Fi uses a wonderfully unique premise to builds the foundations of a grippingly bleak social satire about issues of over population and our ever depleting natural resources.

In a dystopian future with all the usual Orwellian, big brother trappings, the world’s population has finally escalated beyond the point of sustainability. In an attempt to solve this dilemma  there has been a revelation in bioengineering which for the mean time has prevented the world falling into chaos. The invention is an artificial enzyme which segregates the inhabitants of The Metropolis (a bleak vision of futuristic Mexico City) into two separate communities living under the same sky. Half now live only during the hours of day whilst the other can only operate under the cover of night, turning the length of a day into two separate shifts. The idea being that this round the clock work ethic will enhance productivity and in turn prevent the depletion of supplies to this ever growing populous.

The two shifts never meet, a fact which has a devastating effect on Auroua (a young female scientist working in Metropolis) the moment she awakes to find her daughter is missing. Finding her becomes an arduous task with the roles of parents and children now resulting in little more than generic terms like infant and guardian, removing all trace of paternal love and slowly stripping away any inherent identity. When the young girl’s body is eventually discovered, Auroua instantly fears she has died, however, on closer inspection it would seems despite her comatose state that she’s actually alive, just unresponsive. Some brief investigation soon reveals that although her daughter is alive there’s little cause to celebrate; as her shift has now been changed from day to night meaning they must simultaneously live within the same world whilst never being able to consciously meet again.

This beautifully shot film will no doubt catch the eye of any Science Fiction fan with its distinctively absurd plot stepped in a world of implausible scientific conventions. Its premise is both captivating and original whilst maintaining a comforting level of familiarity for anyone who fell in love with the genre’s inwardly reflective style during its golden age in the late seventies.

However, the execution is poor and the films sterile vision of the future means that any expression of emotion is very much subdued. The narrative moves at a snail’s pace and is so devoid of life it becomes difficult to see these central characters as anything other than malfunctioning droids in a world of rigidly enforced infrastructure. The eradication of the principle elements of the human spirit should ultimately make any strength of emotion burst from the screen within this otherwise emotionless world however, these moments are used far too sparingly that all impact is lost amongst the films atmosphere of repression and resigned defeat to this desolate vision of the future.

The film’s minuscule budget is also a major hindrance to the overall enjoyment of the story. Reproducing such grand ideas with such little money must be a difficult feat yet, the film bizarrely chooses to replicate a amalgamation of varying seventies visions of the future which seemed almost as dated then as they do now. Many technological elements of this futuristic Mexico seem redundant even by today’s standards and what at first looks like an enjoyable pastiche soon seems jarringly cheap and tacky.

Sadly the film misses the mark by quite some distance and whilst visually hypnotic lacks enough of an emotive punch to make it the haunting social warning it aims to be. Disappointingly the film’s most disturbing revelation becomes the truly horrifying idea that lycra uniforms might one day actually be the way forward – a disturbingly revealing future not many of us are built to live through.

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