'Silent Running: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1972) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)
Overview: In the not-so-distant future, Earth is barren of all flora and fauna, with what remains of the planet's former ecosystems preserved aboard a fleet of greenhouses orbiting in space.
When the crews are ordered to destroy the remaining specimens, one botanist, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern, The Burbs), rebels and flees towards Saturn in a desperate bid to preserve his own little piece of Earth that was, accompanied only by the ship's three service robots.
Featuring a captivating central performance by Dern, visual effects that rival anything in 2001 and a powerful ecological message, 'Silent Running' is a haunting and prescient sci-fi classic that resonates even more strongly today than it did at the time of its original release.
Blu-ray Verdict: When I first watched this movie in my youth, I saw it as an environmentalist message movie. But I think in the original conception of the movie Trumbull didn't even have the film as being about the environment, it was a movie about encountering aliens.
The second time I watched it I felt something very different going on and I felt a very close connection to Freeman Lowell. I've been intrigued as to receptions of this character as some have been applauding his death at the end of the movie.
I think the key phrase of the movie is a story Lowell tells about being a kid, writing a message on a piece of paper, putting it in a bottle and throwing it in the sea, wondering if anyone ever picked it up.
I think that no-one ever reads Lowell's message. I think the key thing about him is social ineptness, you can see at the beginning that his three crewmates, whilst (unfashionably outside of the narrative) not buying his environmentalist arguments, are all to some extent sympathetic of Lowell at points, though antagonistic at others, more out of frustration at his ineptness.
He isn't able to see their point of view and doesn't seem to realize that they aren't the enemy, he doesn't recognize either their sympathy or their antagonism, misreading these attitudes as either digressive or pigheadedly hostile respectively.
Lowell eventually kills these three men, who are replaced for him by three compliant robots (played by bi-lateral amputees in a nod to Tod Browning's Freaks), who are a more fitting audience for him.
I think that he kills these men and that's what he intended, but he has an empathy deficit and doesn't really know what he's doing, other than defending a cause.
Indeed, he slowly becomes haunted by what he's done, by the comrades he's abandoned. Lowell's misplaced integrity is a kind of purity that deserves some sort of respect. His misunderstandings the stuff of high tragedy.
I just wanted to point out as well that the first time I saw this movie I didn't see anything strange or unusual in Lowell's behavior at all, I just straight saw him as a hero.
As a background I have Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulty in social interaction.
I've been learning my way out of it since my late 20s, which is why I've seen this film differently the second time round. But I can hear the silence that Lowell hears, I was always confused as a youth by the phrase, "No man is an island", which I regarded simply as inaccurate.
There's something very wonderful about that silence, but incredibly sad as well. Maybe the saddest moment in many sad moments comes during his eulogy for the three men where he says that although they weren't his friends he did like them.
This is an experience that I have shared a lot, perhaps up until only this year: unilateral friendships where I admire people that don't like me at all, just because there isn't anyway you can express the love inside you when you're socially inept, you end up accidentally upsetting people all the time.
In closing, if I had to sum up all this in a short review title, if you will, I plum for Everest Flower, because I want to think of the remotest place possible, with an amazing clean view, and just imagine a beautiful flower growing there amidst the snow; and that reminds me of Freeman Lowell, and the person I was.
As for the plot of the movie, well, sure, it can be a bit basic at some points, including long dark nights of the soul that a professional botanist suffers through whilst wondering why his plants are dying before realizing the obvious, that the sun isn't shining enough when you're way out past Saturn, but I didn't really care (and I feel you won't either once you have viewed it). This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director Douglas Trumbull and produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original lossless mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by critics Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw
Original audio commentary by Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern
Isolated music and effects track
No Turning Back, a new interview with film music historian Jeff Bond on the film's score
First Run, a new visual essay by writer and filmmaker Jon Spira exploring the evolution of Silent Running's screenplay
The Making of Silent Running, an archival 1972 on-set documentary
Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull and Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now, two archival interviews with the film's director
A Conversation with Bruce Dern, an archival interview with the film's lead actor
Extensive behind-the-scenes gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Arik Roper
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Peter Tonguette.
Amazon Purchase Link