Black Moon (Louis Malle, 1975)

by Smart

Science fiction is a versatile and exciting genre. It offers a way to give structure and reasoning to pure boundless imagination, and allows the audience to suspend their disbelief without difficulty. Black Moon starts out in the midst of a low-key war between men and women, although the reasons behind this war are never made known. We follow Lily (played by the gorgeous Cathryn Harrison) as she drives frantically through this apocalyptic world, which is no doubt a ‘possible’ future for Earth. Everything is grey and yet somehow visually spectacular and engaging. The near flawlessly executed cinematography comes courtesy of the one and only Sven Nykvist, who was always able to define and maintain a style with ease. Some of the prop design is amazing, and gives real credence to the reality of the world, even though that reality was immediately thrown into question when the fantasy elements of the film began to seep in.

This is a fantasy film, first and foremost. The Sci-Fi backdrop is certainly a unique touch, and handled meticulously well, but really has little impact on the core of the film and is merely a catalyst. There’s minimal dialogue which allows Malle to maximise on the visual storytelling and powerful images are thusly created without any excess or manipulation. Cherished interactions with insects and animals offer clues as to what is happening to Lily, as she seems to have taken on a similar role to that of Alice (in Wonderland). Things become comical at times, and the madness can come across as little more than nonsense, although not without a peculiar, sexualised allure. Finding meaning in the symbolism is not necessary or even important, especially as the film becomes more lyrical and metaphoric. The human interactions are strange and conversations take place without the need for spoken words. Violence and bloodshed seem to intrude sporadically and horrifically upon Lily, turning her world into a nightmare. The unicorn is a guide, a cryptic object of desire, a target to chase that she cannot resist.