Directors: Marteinn Thorsson, Jeff Renfroe. Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Deborah Unger, Udo Kier, Lance Henriksen, Bruce Payne. 2004, Iceland, USA, Romania. Budget: $1.7 mln. Box office: unknown. IMDb: 6.2. My rating: 3.5/4. Surreal cyberpunk.
– I’m full of bugs. I’m full of mistakes.
(one of the movie’s main characters)
– You ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?
– All the time. It’s called mescaline.
(a dialogue from “The Matrix”)
“Is atmospheric but in a way that made me nervous, I wanted to tear the seat and theater apart.”
(p_imdb-238-926380 from Germany)
Has it ever happened to you to spend days while you are trying to get a certain information or a document? The office rats send you from one office to another (“Sure, ask my colleague from room 867 on the 16th floor“), you spend hours on the phone, then from one building to the opposite side of town (“Yes, we are open on Tuesday from 16.00 till 18.00 and on Thursday from 10.00 till 12.00“), and days pass and you feel being sucked in some insane surreal bureaucratic vortex. I experienced it more than once and – while I hope it didn’t happen do you – I bet you went through this too.
Now imagine of experiencing this kind of feeling in your own apartment, located in a somewhat post-Victorian post-communist gloomy house full of surveillance cameras, weird dark holes and obscure personalities. Every day you receive a nicely packaged box which is perfectly empty. Every day. You spy your neighbours, install the surveillance, but… the packages keep appearing. And THE MILK. You are just obsessed with milk now. “Nature Fresh” brand milk.
What I liked. I must admit I haven’t yet watched a movie with so many names. “Version 1.0”. “One Point O”. “Paranoia: 1.0”. “1.0”. “Virus 1.0”. “One Point Zero”. And that reflects pretty well its dark multifaceted nature.
“Version 1.0” is a hypnotizing surreal cyberpunk woven of Dadaism, Kafka, Lynch, Cronenberg, noir, surrealism, consumerism, corporations, depression, sex addictions and, finally, turns up to be a very satisfying science fiction. For a low budget sci-fi flick it does a smart move – the film captures you straight from the first frames due to a very unusual texture – sinister camera angles, eerie close-ups and noir-like lightning aren’t just guests here. You’re their guest.
Remember one of the opening scenes in “The Matrix” when Neo wakes up in his appartment, his PC is sending him weird messages and then a bunch of weird friends knock the door? Imagine that scene being developed in a movie and you’ll get the grim style of “Version 1.0”.
The film is just full of many mechanisms and details, if I start describing all of them I’ll end up writing a book. Let me just mention an incredible and creepy A. I. doll.
The colour solutions of “Version 1.0” remind me of an amazing robot horror movie by Richard Stanley, “Hardware” with its dominant dirty yellow and red shades. By the way, if you loved that robot horror dystopian film, you’d definitely enjoy “Version 1.0”. The monotone decay atmosphere is present in both.
The cast deserves a special mention. Jeremy Sisto (“Wrong Turn“) and Deborah Unger (“The Game“) in the main roles were perfect, not some outstanding performances, but the film’s secondary characters really gave it a particular savour. Lance Henriksen (Bishop in “Aliens“, Alien 3“), Bruce Payne (bet on black “Passenger 57“, the insane “Necronomicon“), Udo Kier (secondary roles in “Suspiria“, “Blade“, “Armageddon“, “Dogville“, “Grindhouse”) – all these guys are amazing character actors, but I particularly loved Lance Henriksen’s role as basement dwelling bum. He just stole the show with his seemingly simple and probably the only still reasonable character.
What I liked less. “Version 1.0” is a good debut B-movie, but, like almost any debut, the film has its problems, especially in the narrative where are too many dead-ends that work effectively to create the atmosphere but don’t really develop the story. It is not really a criticism, but I wish those points would’ve been more elaborated.
You can easy feel that the directors were not really that experienced and indeed this production was a first feature film for both, but Marteinn Thorsson (Iceland) and Jeff Renfroe (USA) did their debut in a smart way – when one of the elements starts to sag a little, there’s always something to compensate it, let it be cool and weird close-ups of some mechanisms, camera angles, obscure minor characters or something else. It is a good example of a creative approach.
It would be great to see a bigger development of the final idea, which is both awe- and trouble-some when you juxtapose it to our real world, but it is understandable that the budget constraints ($1.7 mln) were important.
The production. Here’s an excerpt from a Marteinn Thorsson’s interview to “Podcasting Them Softly” (read the whole piece, it’s very interesting):
“Jeff and I had both been working in advertising and music videos and decided to create a collaborative entity we called waterfall/fjord. We wanted it to be anti-commercial and just be this experimentation hub for no-budget fun stuff. We did some music videos for an Icelandic band DIP (which was the brainchild of Siggi Baldursson of the Sugarcubes and Johann Johannson who is now scoring films for Denis Villeneuve and won a Golden Globe for Theory of Everything) and we had so much fun doing this we decided to try to write a script and make a feature. We worked on several stories but it wasn’t until we decided to something about the advertising world that a narrative formed which we were happy with. We were both very much into nanotech and sci-fi, Ray Kurzweil, Neal Stephenson and William Gibson. I can’t remember where the plot came from, I think I had written a treatment about a detective who receives an infant’s dismembered foot in his mailbox. I think that’s where the plot started. But the main theme, though, is about loneliness, it’s really a film about Toronto (where we studied and lived at the time) and loneliness.“
Worth watching? “Version 1.0” is quite a fascinating cyberpunk story that effectively mixes various shades. The film definitely feels like a European movie (I know it sounds vague but…). By no means perfect, but most importantly it has quite a unique style and atmosphere, definitely making it to my Top-10 dystopias. There are no boring useless dialogues from which many similar films suffer – in a kinda masochist way of suffering – like “Cypher”, “13th Floor” (both nice flicks though) or, much worse but I still have to name it, “The Lawnmower Man” (this one was pure sadism).
“Version 1.0” is a hypnotizing surreal cyberpunk brilliantly portraying monotone paranoid decay, woven of many elements like Dadaism, Kafka, Lynch, Cronenberg, noir, surrealism, consumerism, corporations, depression, sex addictions and, finally, turns up to be a very satisfying science fiction. I would love to watch it again and it’s the best compliment a movie can receive. For any science fiction fan I’d surely say it’s a must-see.