Homo Sapiens (2016)


Homo Sapiens Storyline

The images could be taken from a science fiction film set on planet Earth after it’s become uninhabitable. Abandoned buildings – housing estates, shops, cinemas, hospitals, offices, schools, a library, amusement parks and prisons. Places and areas being reclaimed by nature, such as a moss-covered bar with ferns growing between the stools, a still stocked soft drinks machine now covered with vegetation, an overgrown rubbish dump, or tanks in the forest. Tall grass sprouts from cracks in the asphalt. Birds circle in the dome of a decommissioned reactor, a gust of wind makes window blinds clatter or scraps of paper float around, the noise of the rain: sounds entirely without words, plenty of room for contemplation. All these locations carry the traces of erstwhile human existence and bear witness to a civilisation that brought forth architecture, art, the entertainment industry, technologies, ideologies, wars and environmental disasters.—AnonymousB

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Homo Sapiens Movie Reviews

Breathtaking Treat for the Eyes and a Rare Reprieve for the Ears!

I don’t know how anyone can give this less than a 10-star rating! It’s everything it is purported to be: A purely visual documentary of man-made structures slowly being absorbed by nature, turning into the archaeological digs of the future. There are no humans, no narration, no soundtrack distractions or cacophony to ruin the spellbinding tour that you have a virtual front seat for!

I watched this on my computer, in the dark, with headphones on – and viewed it as if from an otherworldly portal. The random sounds of nature (wind, rain, rustling paper, flapping wings, ocean waves..) were clear as a bell and gave depth to the accompanying scenery. It was very relaxing, thought-provoking, and beautiful even in its ruins.

People who have little time, or short attention spans, will not like this. If your entertainment venues generally consist of car chases and uzi carnage, then this flick is not your cup of tea.. walk on by! It is not quite a documentary and not really a movie. It’s kind of like the newspapers in a Harry Potter movie: bearing photographs that are more or less still – but also alive!

So, for the patient philosopher types who are very visually oriented, enjoy the sounds of breezes and dripping water, and are fascinated by the juxtapositions of human civilization and nature … fix yourself a hot cup of tea or java, put up your feet, and observe the inevitable ravages of time!

Mind-numbingly dull, yet potentially therapeutic

This is perhaps the most austere feature film I have ever seen. Comprised exclusively of static wide and medium-wide shots of abandoned man-made landscapes, these images are presented without commentary, musical accompaniment, or title cards (save a few brief credits at the beginning and end.) After the first few minutes, I knew this viewing experience was going to be a slog, but I pressed on out of a personal commitment to finish any movie I start. (It’s only a few hours anyway, right?)

All of that said, I eventually came to develop a certain appreciation for the experience this movie provides (although I can’t help but wonder if it didn’t involve some version of the placebo effect or whether this might be the film equivalent of John Cage’s 4’33”.) As someone firmly entrenched within the overstimulated media and technological landscape of the 2010s, it was indeed rather soothing to simply focus my attention on… not much in particular. Certainly skill and craft were required of the filmmakers to select suitable locations, camera placement, and picturesque shots derived therein. The audio deserves particular remark, as the ambiance of each environment is what really sets this apart from, say, a coffee table book of still images. As mentioned, the shots themselves are entirely static, with most containing only the barest traces of movement. Occasionally a small animal will flutter or hop into frame, but the runtime largely consists of empty spaces where people once stood. Given the absence of title cards, it became a banal guessing game to try to recognize where each location might be or what circumstances might have led these environments into such disrepair. I believe a number of shots depict the more famous abandoned locales of the Chernobyl and Fukushima exclusion zones and the Korean DMZ – but again, these are only guesses. I have purposely avoided reading for any further context before writing this review, so I can also only speculate on the filmmakers’ intentions or pretensions with this production. The obvious question raised, especially given the glut of post-apocalyptic fiction in recent years, is whether our entire civilization might one day resemble the ruins onscreen; however, given that the various locations have been forsaken at different times and places and for different reasons, it is difficult to discern any larger statement being made. (As one might if the film consisted solely of radioactive towns or failed businesses, etc.)

My middle-of-the-road rating reflects my ambivalence on the question of whether this movie is worth watching or whether, frankly, it’s any good. I certainly don’t regret watching it, but it’s definitely a hard sell. If you’re still intrigued after reading this review, I recommend you view it the way I did: alone, in a quiet room, perhaps even in daylight (all of the shots appear to be lit by the sun), and with as few interruptions or distractions as possible. It will almost certainly be an endurance and concentration exercise, but by that token it may also be an opiate for the overstimulated mind.

Not a world we would choose to live in

Like the films of Godfrey Reggio, Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s “Homo Sapiens”is a wordless look at the state of our planet but unlike Reggio’s films we are not even permitted a music score to distract us, just a discordant soundtrack made of the noises of humanity and of nature and the sounds are just as important as the images, (the sound ‘design’ is credited to Florian Kindlinger and Peter Kutin). Where are we and what has happened? The empty, and often wrecked, buildings we see could be Earth after The Apocalypse. Consequently the film is as much sci-fi as it is documentary and like a number of such ‘experimental’ works is perhaps best viewed as a video installation in a gallery rather than in a cinema or on television. Did Geyrhalter stage this or simply record it? Either way, this is not a world you would want to inhabit yet in the back of your mind you know this is the world we do inhabit and it’s far from a welcoming place. The Homo Sapiens of the title, by the way, are conspicuous by their absence.