Déjà Vu (Hera's Odyssey), dir. Isabelle Alenus

Pre-release showing

 [ Image courtesy Blue Whale Productions ] Blue Whale Productions and FAB-Film

Starring: Kimberly Dean, Kristie Gallacher, Steven Fessler, Martha Barnett, Viki Friend

This is a film that you will not see in the theatres, at least not just yet. The reviewer has been privileged to witness a special screening of the first pressed version, fully filmed and cut, but not edited to a final release print. The sound in particular was weak, but it was already clear how effective the treatment and the score will be. This disclaimer aside, I am going to judge the film as a finished piece of work.

Déjà Vu is basically a road movie. Dean is Hera, a tormented young pop singer who ran away from home after her identical twin died some years ago, and who is still running. Now she has kidnapped a small child (the impressive Gallacher as Hebe) whom she believes to be a clone of herself (and/or of her sister?). The film tells the story of the three days the pair spend in Hera's car as she drives through the New Mexico desert, and the motley characters they meet on the road—some real, some more or less likely to be imaginary. They share the car with Hera's imaginary versions of her brother Jake (Fessler), sister Janie (Barnett), and cousin Josie (Friend). Other secondary characters come and go, and none of them ellicit the audience's sympathy in the way that Hera and Hebe do; in fact they are all purposely two-dimensional.

The scenery could hardly be more impressive, and the brilliant landscape contrasts starkly with the claustrophobia of the car's interior. Although light-hearted at times, Dean's performance is brooding and very dark; there is much scowling and staring into the distance, punctuated by occasional flashes of very believable temper, but underlaid with a real vulnerability and affection for her infant charge and alter ego. We may not, perhaps, identify with Hera, who is too distant (or the child Hebe who barely speaks), but we certainly like them well enough to care what will happen to them at the end (although it seems too much to expect such tragic beginnings to lead to a happy ending—despite Hera's belief that she will finally be happy with Hebe, and her dream of a utopian future where hydro-electric energy has replaced the modern world's reliance on polluting fuels). Most often the secondary characters appear to introduce pathos or humour when the car threatens to become too claustrophobic—but Hera's conversations with her family members are the core of the film. They begin by allowing her to work through her neuroses and obsessions, but soon start to spiral out of her control; she prefers the lucid dream where she decides what happens.

The production team apparently made a conscious decision not to market this film as science fiction, although it contains a human clone, a utopian vision of the future, and other fantastic, imaginary elements. This is probably a tactical rather than a snobbish distinction, but their point is that cloning is no longer futuristic fiction (if indeed the Clonaid scientists are not complete fantasists); the philosopher John Harris argues that human cloning is not only already possible, but desirable. Of course speculative fiction has long paid particular attention to those futuristic technologies that are close to, if not already present. Although I think this film will appeal to a genre audience, especially to those with a taste for dark comedy and thrillers in the David Lynch mould, it has to be said that the background and motivation of the central character is convincing, apposite, and down-to-earth.

In structure this is a simple film, beautifully executed, theatrically and intelligently written (the script is based on an original stage play by director Alenus). I look forward to seeing this movie funded, completed, and released, and wish the team all success.

Watch the trailer for this film online.

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