Directed by Kornél Mundruczó, whose previous feature was the apocalyptic canine drama White God (2014), Jupiter’s Moon explores themes of existentialism, morality and religion, all hidden under the guise of corruption and violence within a mafia-like, border control system. The film’s key antagonist is an archetype of a bull-headed, gun-slinging mercenary, relentlessly chasing down the clandestine Syrian refugee who escapes to Budapest with the help of a morally questionable doctor. The film is politically charged and yet manages to make a poignant and sometimes harsh criticism of man’s inability to humanise others.
The parable opens with a set of astrological statistics, particularly noting Jupiter’s largest moon Europa. The irony is not lost as the Syrian refugees’ desperation and heartbreaking panic is immediately thrown at the audience as the scene begins to unfold. The following scenes are beautifully shot and there is an impressive attention to detail. We follow our protagonist, Aryan (Zsombor Jéger), as he attempts to escape through the border until he is shot assumedly dead. Only he isn’t dead. Through some miracle, Aryan is gifted not only with renewed life but also the ability to defy gravity as if touched by God himself. He spirals madly in the air as the audience is left to gape not only at the special effects but also at the jarring camera work which jerks high and low.
As the narrative unfolds, we witness the corruptive nature of Doctor Stern (Merab Ninidze), who takes briberies and eventually Aryan under his wing, planning to exploit his powers for his own gain. Stern uses Aryan’s ‘miraculous’ power to dupe hopeless patients, desperate for life-saving cures and willing to pay large sums. There are constant references to Christianity, as Stern battles his temptation to coerce Aryan into his elaborate con and questions his existence as an ‘angel’. Stern’s transformation into an absolute believer is an obvious and yet key aspect of this film, as we witness his repentance.
Although there are many confusing turns and there is never quite a satisfactory resolution, Jupiter’s Moon is a visually stunning masterpiece. One of the most profound moments occurs when Stern plaintively admits, “sometimes just one small detail makes us see things differently.” There is no denying that there are certainly tiny nuanced details littered throughout the allegory, referring to religion and morality.
One cannot help but feel that Kata Wéber’s screenplay is deliberately frustrating with its vague obscurity. As with many religious contexts, perhaps the magic of faith is that one must have it blindly; such is the same with this film. If one can tolerate the lack of precision and be flexible enough to follow the clumsy storyline, it makes for an enjoyable watch. As Aryan so effortlessly rises and defies gravity, surveying the city below, we have to question whether the moral of this elaborate plot does not concern what divides humanity, but rather what brings it together: faith.
Image: Curzon Artificial Eye