Eter (Zanussi, 2018): Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Italy

Reviewed by Matheus Clorado. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2019.

Image result for eter zanussiHow far is a doctor willing to go in his search for more? Zanussi explores the ambition of a military doctor researching the properties of ether during the war that borders the Russian Tsar Imperium in the beginning of the 20th century.

The incredible combined work from several nations results in this beautifully shot epic drama. Its bizarre core raises it to a psychological thriller many times, but the strength here comes from the context given. Jacek Poniedzialek plays a limitless doctor, whose main interest had become the discovery of the intriguing properties of ether. It’s earlier in the 20th century, where science was shifting from a purely mechanical-based view to a more complex quantum-based treatment. Believing he’s up to something far beyond life, the doctor devotes himself to his research, stopping at nothing to further develop it.

He finds himself an apprentice and their interactions aid to the construction of his character and overall intentions. Make no mistake, though, Zanussi’s skillful script will certainly trick you at times, playing on your expectations and testing your attention.

The score and art references are brilliantly placed throughout the picture, adding to the meanings hidden in the story as well as creating an ambience like no other.

Eter (Ether) deserves praise for the thrilling performances and its clever script – handwritten by 80-year-old physicist and filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi over the course of three weeks. The cinematography adds to the themes and the mise-en-scène is impecable.

This film will take you to places in your mind you might have never been, touching on the meaning of life and death, while it also navigates history, science and the controversial subject of soul and consciousness. Make sure to see it to believe it and remember that larger doses of Ether could be mind-altering.

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