Once upon a time, there was a city where all voices had been silenced by a mysterious machine operated by persons unknown, and the inhabitants were forced to communicate only in subtitles which appeared in the air in front of them. One of these inhabitants was a little girl called Ana, who today was suffering a traumatising incident when the advertising balloon she had hold of - which contained a prizewinner who had got the chance to go up into the sky - broke free and she was unable to stop it drifting above the city. But this would only be the start of a remarkable adventure...
This highly stylised fantasy, much in the manner of silent cinema but with more elaborate special effects, was created by Argentinian filmmaker Estaban Sapir, a cinematographer directing his second effort in over ten years. Perhaps it took him so long because of the intricacy of the world he was conjuring up, and he had obviously put a lot of thought into this, but often the case with elaborately crafted fantasy worlds is that they mean so much more to their creator than they do to their audiences, who can feel left out in the cold.
It's true that La Antena, which translates as The Aerial, will not be everyone's cup of tea, but those of you who are fans of Tim Burton and would like to see him go further in his imagination will find much to entice them here. I don't know if Burton was an influence, but Sapir makes references to other directors and artists, so every so often you will see a Georges Méliès moon with the face in it, or the screen filled with eyes much like the Salvador Dali episode featured in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. What seems to be the biggest source is Fritz Lang's classic silent, Metropolis.
Sapir takes the notion of silent films to mean that nobody in them could be heard even if there was sound, but this is not the case for all the characters. One woman, known only as The Voice, is able to sing and performs on the television to entertain the masses; she has a son who has no eyes, and has asked the head of the T.V. station, known as Mr T.V., to provide her son with a pair, but they get delivered to the wrong address. Ana's address, in fact, and this gives her the excuse to go over to her neighbour's house to hand the eyes over, her neighbours being The Voice and the eyeless boy.
As you can see, this plot is nothing if not overinvolved, and that's just scratching the surface. In truth, La Antena is a bit of a mishmash, and all the way through watching it you may be expecting the novelty to wear off, yet it retains its charm. It turns into something akin to a vintage serial (it is oddly similar to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, in its artier method), a highly idiosyncratic serial granted, but the manner in which the story does not hang around and rushes breathlessly to the next twist goes some way to holding the interest. There are targets to the dramatics, with Sapir flirting with anti-television material as well as anti-Nazi imagery, but this can just as easily be enjoyed as a straightforward (well, sort of) thrills and spills fantasy. It weaves a curious spell even if it does not resonate thematically as much as you might like. Music by Leo Sujatovich.