Orion (2015) [Fantasia Film Festival]



Orion starts with a prophecy to which the film comes back a few times, a prophecy about a virgin mother giving birth to a child who will become a tree and about a traveler who will change the course of things. The movie starts with the traveler seemingly going from place to place aimlessly and the virgin mother giving birth only for the magician to plan her baby to her dismay. She wants to leave but has little hope for survival, until the traveler comes upon their door in need of shelter and food and the magician decides to take him in for the night, and then commences the long process of saving her and himself from the magician who, according to rumors, cannot be killed. All of this happens in a desolate wasteland after what looks to have been an apocalypse.

The film mainly rests on the shoulders of David Arquette as the Wanderer, Lily Cole as the Virgin Mother, and Goran Kostic as the Magician. All three of them are convincing in their parts, giving performances that connect with each other. Arquette and Cole show a good chemistry so his wanting to save this stranger so soon after meeting her makes sense in the context of the Magician having an aura of negativity about him and there not being many other humans around. This film having minimal dialogue forces the actors to interact and get the feelings and story through their physical actions and the emotions they display. Thankfully, all three and the supporting cast went for a more understated approach in most scenes which adds to the feeling that this is a quiet movie, except for a few more in your face scenes. This pushes the impact of those scenes up as they seem so different from the rest without feeling out of place.

This balance is not easily achieved so a good script and steady direction were necessary so that the whole is cohesive while keeping an almost dreamlike ambiance. Writer/Director Asiel Norton, whose only previous credit as such is Redland, constructed a strong fable that can serve as entertainment, metaphor for the current state of affairs in the world, or a cautionary tale about religion and prophecies. The story is simple, yet effective. It clearly takes some cues from the Bible (a virgin mother, a child bringing forth changes, …) and from other ancient sources. The story feels like an old tale with its tarot-reading style interstice cards and the way it is told with imagines sequences and visions mixed with the action without explaining which character is seeing them. All of this creates an almost dreamlike environment for the characters to evolve in, for them to fight to stay alive in.

The music and background sounds of the film are minimal, adding to the end of the world land in an audio-sensory way. When paired with the muted tones of the scenery, costumes, … it all leads to a calm that is only disturbed from time to time. With a story such as this, the less intrusive surroundings for the characters helps one concentrate on the actions and emotions on screen, letting the story in, letting it brew in one’s brain.

These elements teamed up with the story, its tone, and the acting bring everything together to make this one a movie you have to think about, a movie with more than what shows on the surface, a movie worth paying attention to. Orion is a bleak film with a touch of hope in its ending, one that will make some think and lose the interest of others.