The Illumination, which is definitely worth a watch, is a slightly chaotic look at life and what it means to live in a world fuelled by science and revelation. We follow Franciszek Retman, (Stanislaw Latallo), a young physicist, as everyday life such as love, war and death encroach on his desire to answer the world’s ‘big’ questions. The film explores the complicated science behind being human but also offers the much simpler, more relatable, glimpse into what it means to live as a man, a husband and a father.
With its jumpy cuts, use of graphics and images, it feels almost like a documentary. We switch between audience member and fly on the wall which really helps the element of intrigue. We are offered information but within a dramatic setting so we leave almost unaware we have learned something. The film cuts from our protagonist to scientific interviews in order to express what he is thinking and feeling, from the mundane to the complex.
There is a slight ‘say what you see’ mentality in places which is both random and comedic. These moments, paired with some dangerous music, creates an almost satirical visual juxtaposed with serious moments in Retman’s life. The film feels almost like one long montage with key moments in the story being deliberately skipped over to throw the audience off, this means things aren’t always clear but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. Seeing the aftermath more than the incident itself helps to add to the chaos and confusion of Retman’s life.
It’s hard to tell how you are supposed to feel throughout and that’s the point. Life isn’t straightforward and should feel a little confusing and chaotic (chaos theory for the physics enthusiasts amongst you).
You don’t need to be a science fiend to enjoy the film however, though I will say it helps. Everyone wonders about our universe and the world in their own way and the film is very much about that curiosity.
For a feature that deals with complex issues such as the relevance of Physics when all the major discoveries have passed, you don’t really feel its length. Perhaps towards the end it begins to slow down but it time-hops, sometimes years, so that Retman’s life passes very quickly. It asks so many questions but doesn’t really offer many answers as that’s down to the individual. They guide you to suggestions and use symbolism to get their point across. Life is short and you should live it etc. It’s actually a very simple story but wrapped up in the more complicated world of physics, so no matter your IQ you will find something worth thinking about.
We come full circle in Retman’s life, asking what he has learned (what we have learned) and how we achieve balance within our short lives.
Illumination is a very strong piece with memorable visuals (there’s a brain scene that you may want to skip if squeamish), artfully mixed themes and styles which leave you feeling a little overwhelmed but in the best way possible.