There's not a great deal of competition, but Kornél Mundruczó is unquestionably dean of the Hungarian high-concept art-house fraternity. His excellent last film, White God, imagined a mistreated dog uniting his canine companions in rebellion against their human oppressors. The fascinating, fitful Jupiter's Moon turns a refugee into a class of superhero.
The results are certainly startling to look at. But the metaphorical intent – there must surely be such a thing – is never satisfactorily teased free. Is there a Christian parallel in here? Is there something about everyday urban disaffection? Are we really seeing what we seem to be seeing? The unquestionable humanity and technical elan of the piece are not quite enough to distract from the lack of decent answers.
Jupiter's Moon begins with a spectacular rush. A Syrian man named Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) is making his way towards the boats that will, all going well, deliver his father and him to Europe. Border patrols catch up with them and, separated from dad, Aryan ends up being pursued through the looming forest. He is shot. But he does not die.
The young man’s body leaves the earth and spends some time puzzlingly aloft before he makes his way to a refugee camp. There he meets a dubious doctor named Stern (Merab Ninidze) who decides that there may be money in the levitating migrant.
Those near death may, perhaps, hand over cash for the privilege of spending time with an apparently divine presence.
We end up with a technical marvel in search of a moral purpose. Marcell Rév’s superb, mobile camerawork introduces antic energy to the chase sequences and grace to the many moments of transcendent elevation.
The Australian wizard Jed Kurzel delivers a sweeping score that presses home the seriousness of Mundruczó’s purpose (even if the details of that purpose remain obscure).
All of this would work well as the opening for one of those more grown-up superhero films we’re always being promised. Mundruczó gets halfway to something more profound, but the work still feels incomplete. The opening discussion of Jupiter’s most hospitable moon does little to help. It is called Europa. Get it?