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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Iron Cloud (2014) - A Sci-fi movie short from Poland

Good grief - just where the hell is the time going? I swear that soon after reaching my twenties (yes I know. it was a long while ago) I must one day have unknowingly transgressed through some rogue time/space continuum into a parallel universe where years don't actually last for 365 days. No, in this strange parallel world that I found myself it seems that the average year lasts for, on average, 23 or 24 days - maybe 25 at a push, such is the speed that the decades seem to be passing by. It is unfortunate that my transgression through a rip in the time/space continuum didn't result in this particular reality with Helena Bonham-Carter responding positively to my overtures of lust love rather than completely ignoring them to instead stay with that Burton chappie ...... Oh well.

Anyhoo, my point is that it really doesn't seem that over a year has passed since I was contacted by writer and director Nikodem Wojciechowski, who leads a group of independent filmmakers from Poland.  He had informed me in May of 2013 that the early pre-production stages of a short film Science Fiction drama 'Iron Cloud' had commenced and that the film would begin shooting in June / July of that year. There were tantalisingly few other details that I was allowed to share - such was Niko's understandably cautious approach to letting too much information escape into Internetland.

However, what I did know at the time was this;

Mateusz Mirek in a spot of bother...
"The film is set In a future of an unspecified date. Two brothers live in a poor, Eastern country which is ruled by corrupted caste of dignitaries. It seems that life for the brothers has taken a turn for the worse after the younger brother gets beaten during an interrogation and the older one’s home destroyed by a police raid. The boy manages to arrange a plan of escape to an unnamed free, technologically advanced neighbouring country. There will be no return. He goes on this one-way trip with the older brother and his wife and daughters they manage to evade the soldiers and break trough the closed border. 

However, during the walk through  no-man’s land, when immigrants are so close to their dream goal, things get decidedly worse. Ultimately, the Technocratic West will welcome them with open arms and give them shelter but not exactly in a way they have always expected. It will soon turn out that their new home - apparently a perfect place to live - is only a new version of prison which people build for one another."

All that was a year ago.

Look in to my eyes, Mateusz Mirek - you are feeling sleepy
A few days ago Niko contacted me with a request. Namely, did I wish to get a sneak early preview of Iron Cloud in advance of its full release later in the year?......Did I?! Did I !!?Did !!!?........oh go on then. So earlier this week I fired up my trusty iMac & clicked on the super-duper-cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-if-was-to-divulge-the-internet-link for the now completed movie. And boy oh boy, was I in for treat? 

Yes I was. Make no mistake, for this is an accomplished piece of science fiction that deliveries with a gusto that belies its short length of just 42 minutes. Iron cloud simply took my breath away. You may think that I'm just saying that for the sake of it. No. This short science fiction piece is perhaps the finest example of its genre that I have the privilege to see in many a long time, of that there is no question in my mind.

I've been thinking about this movie on and off for a few days now since I first saw it, so much so that I even dreamt about it a couple of nights ago - of course I was the hero within the story, that goes without saying :-). I have now watched it three times in all, and on each occasion it has left me with something new to think about and much to ponder upon - for example, how to do the review of Iron Cloud justice without including much in the area of spoilers? Well, I'll have a go.

This movie is less than three quarters of an hour of a considered, intelligent and thought-provoking slice of science fiction movie making. However, for those of us who don't like to spend too much time thinking, there are also a number of very satisfactory fast-paced action sequences that certainly get the blood pulsating - plus a couple of scenes in particular which are genuinely unsettling. 

Niko is on record as stating that inspiration for his movie is overtly inspired why works of such luminaries as Philip K. Dick, to name but one. This movie deals with a number of the same intellectual and philosophical themes that can often be found within Dick's writing. The journey, both physical and psychological, of the brothers as they escape from one confining existence only for it to be replaced by another form of control (no matter how well meaning that control is on the outset) is very Dickian. These, and other ideas in the film deal ask us to dwell for example on the fragile nature of what is actually "real" and whether our own personalities are merely the result purely of conditioning and control. That very control can come from the authorities, from technology or from a god, in this film all of those may or may not be having an impact on the population's lives. Iron Cloud, very much in a similar vein to the worlds that Phillip K. Dick created, is a beautifully crafted surreal fantasy, and we are carried along with the characters involved as they slowly discover that their everyday world is possible just one form of an illusion constructed by powerful external entities.
Rafal Sumski

As I’ve previously mentioned, after viewing this film I've been thinking about it - rather often, and as a consequence I have found me asking myself a whole range of questions. Would I live in a world controlled by despots who are only interested in control for the sake of their urge for power and authority? Or would I prefer to live in a world where the control and lack of free will may well bring peace and non-violence, but at the expense of any form of free will and the inability to let free any form of extreme emotional release? Indeed, if physical violence and aggression can ultimately controlled by the state, yet emotional aggression can still remain, does this just simply mean a different form of incarceration? And will the disablement of our human aggressive tendencies merely mean that they will resurface in other ways? I still don't have the answers - and I like that.

When the two brothers are faced with the reality of their new home they each make very different decisions as to how they would deal with these very conflicts - and this is where the movie lands it's most effective emotional punches on the viewer. As I mentioned earlier, there are number of impassioned scenes, but one in particular  where the older brother is forced to confront the extremities of his emotional despair and choose between forgiveness and revenge is simply powerful, the result is a genuine shock for the viewer.

I don't want anyone reading this (there is someone reading this, right?) to think that Iron Cloud is some sort of depressing and bleak story that fails to entertain on more than just an intellectual level - far from it. I love a good lightsabre fight, to go boldly where no man has gone before or to give the Emperor Ming a damn good kicking as much as the next person. However, it is simply wrong to think that good science fiction has to be full of whizz bang special effects and cuddly Ewoks for it to be effective and entertaining. Good science fiction, in whatever form it takes, uses elements of the human condition and places it within an environment, be it the future or a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, and have that very humanity taken to task on any number of psychological, social and ethical issues. Indeed, the very notions of hope, revenge, god, control and violence are all delivered with a skillfully artistic hand by the filmmakers here.

Visually, Iron Cloud is stunning. The early scenes set in the corrupt decaying city are suitably convincing, and beautifully shot. There are a number of sequences, created I believe by artist Adam Kuczek, one of the decaying industrialised city skyline, and the other of the new technologically affluent and futuristic city which are simply gob smacking - I know, it's not the most literary of words, but that just about sums up the two shots....gob smacking. Adam's Facebook page for his work can be found HERE. I don't know what the budget was for this movie, but the imaginative authenticity of both the decaying and futuristic cities are exceedingly professional and stylish.

The acting in low-budget independent films can often be the one element that often detracts markedly from such productions. However Iron Cloud benefits from a whole multitude of strong and convincing performances, particularly from the two central figures. Rafal Szumski & Mateusz Mirek are utterly compelling as the two bothers, one the thoughtful pragmatic family man, the other, the younger more likely to act first than think.
Mateusz Mirek & Rafal Sumski 
Individually both actors fill their roles admirably, but it's when they are together that it's crystal clear that a very real chemistry has obviously developed between the actors. As a result, their relationship as brothers, whose very differences bind them closer together only then for that closeness to be ultimately affected in a way they could never have imagined, is completely convincing.

The supporting cast is generally of good quality, though I do have one major gripe regarding the actress Joanna Komarow who appears in the second part of the story. The simple fact is is that she's a bit gorgeous and should have been far more utilised in the story by the filmmakers. Shame on you, Niko. Shame on you :-)
Joanna Komarow.
A film and theatre actress living in Warsaw. 
 - & a bit gorgeous.

Iron Cloud asks a plethora of philosophical questions, though there will be some that may be disappointed to find that not all of them are answered. They shouldn't be, instead they should be thankful for the chance to interpret for themselves some of the events that take place. I love the fact that the film makers here have resisted the urge to pander to the middle ground with a standard Hollywood-esque mainstream ever so tidy ending. It's rather refreshing for once not to be hit squarely in the face with the moralising and preaching tendencies and all wrapped up in a syrupy resolution which others who shall remain nameless
....cough....Hunger Games....cough......seem unable to resist.

I implore you to watch this 42 minutes of intelligent and exciting science fiction from Poland when it is released this year. Will this restore the genre in their and wider Eastern Europe as the makers hope? I hope so.

The Facebook page link for Iron Cloud can be found here RIGHT HERE

Iron Cloud's IMDB page can be found at

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." - Goethe

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