the Way Back is a 2010 survival drama film directed by Peter Weir, from a screenplay by Weir and Keith Clarke. The film is inspired by The Long Walk (1956), the memoir by former Polish prisoner of war Sławomir Rawicz, who claimed to have escaped from a Soviet Gulag and walked 4,000 miles to freedom in World War II. The film stars Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, and Saoirse Ronan, with Alexandru Potocean, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Gustaf Skarsgård, Dragoş Bucur and Mark Strong.
Regardless of whether or not this particular “long walk” really took place, during World War II other Poles undertook difficult journeys attempting to leave the Soviet Union. Accounts of their escapes can be found in the archives of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London, and in the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, in California. Also, several relatively verifiable and believable escapee autobiographies have been published in English, e.g., Michael Krupa’s Shallow Graves in Siberia.
Many of the events that happen in the gulag scenes come from Varlam Shalamov’s The Kolyma Tales. (read/download PDF here)
spacetime coordinates: 1959 > 1965 Kansas
Capote is a 2005 biographical film about Truman Capote, following the events during the writing of Capote’s non-fiction book In Cold Blood. Philip Seymour Hoffman won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his critically acclaimed portrayal of the title character. The film was based on Gerald Clarke‘s biography Capote and was directed by Bennett Miller.
“The viIIage of HoIcomb stands on the high wheat pIains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.
UntiI one morning in mid-November, 1959 few Americans, in fact, few Kansans, had ever heard of Holcomb.
Like the waters of the Arkansas River, Iike the motorists on the highway, exceptionaI happenings never stopped there. Perry Smith’s voice
was both gentIe and prim. A voice that, though soft, manufactured each sound exactIy, ejected it Iike a smoke ring issuing from a parson’s mouth.
The four coffins, which quite fiIIed the smaII, flower-crowded parlor, were to be sealed at the funeral services, very understandabIy,
for the effect was disquieting. Nancy wore her dress of cherry-red veIvet, her brother a bright pIaid shirt. The parents were more sedateIy attired,
Mr. Clutter in navy-blue flannel, his wife in navy-bIue crepe. And it was this especiaIIy that lent the scene an awful aura,
the head of each was compIeteIy encased in cotton. A swollen cocoon twice the size of an ordinary bIown-up baIIoon.
And the cotton, because it had been sprayed with a gIossy substance, twinkled like Christmas tree snow.
One Tuesday at dawn, a carload of strangers, ignorant of the IocaI disaster, were startIed by what they saw as they crossed the prairies
and passed through HoIcomb. Windows ablaze.
AImost every window in aImost every house, and in the brightIy-Iit rooms, fuIIy-cIothed peopIe, even entire families, who had sat the whoIe night wide awake,
watchfuI, Iistening. Of what were they frightened? It might happen again.”
spacetime coordinates: 2035, Sarang Station, automated lunar facility
Moon is a 2009 British science fiction drama film co-written and directed by Duncan Jones. The film follows Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Moon. It was the feature debut of director Duncan Jones. Kevin Spacey voices Sam’s robot companion, GERTY.
Jones described the intent: “[We] wanted to create something which felt comfortable within that canon of those science fiction films from the sort of late seventies to early eighties.” The director spoke of his interest in the lunar setting: “for me, the Moon has this weird mythic nature to it…. There is still a mystery to it. As a location, it bridges the gap between science-fiction and science fact. We (humankind) have been there. It is something so close and so plausible and yet at the same time, we really don’t know that much about it.”
The director described the lack of romance in the Moon as a location, citing images from the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE: “It’s the desolation and emptiness of it…it looks like some strange ball of clay in blackness…. Look at photos and you’ll think that they’re monochrome. In fact, they’re not. There simply are no primary colours.” Jones made reference to the photography book Full Moon by Michael Light in designing the look of the film.
Jones is planning a follow-up film, titled Mute, which will serve as an epilogue to Moon. “Sam has agreed to do a little cameo in the next film”, said Jones, who ultimately hopes to complete a trilogy of films set in the same fictional universe.
spacetime coordinates: 1892–1973 Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
In the Realms of the Unreal is a 2004 documentary film directed by Jessica Yu about American outsider artist Henry Darger.
An obscure janitor during his life, Darger is known for the posthumous discovery of his elaborate 15,145-page fantasy manuscript entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred watercolor paintings and other drawings illustrating the story.
The film’s style is atypical of a documentary. Because there are only three known photographs of Darger, and because of his reclusive lifestyle, the film is mostly a narrated biographical account, accompanied by animated versions of events from his magnum opus, which is also surveyed in detail. Interviews with his few neighbors and other acquaintances are included.
In the last entry in his diary, he wrote: “January 1, 1971. I had a very poor nothing like Christmas. Never had a good Christmas all my life, nor a good new year, and now… I am very bitter but fortunately not revengeful, though I feel should be how I am…”
spacetime coordinates: 1914 Estonia
The Poll Diaries (German: Poll) is a 2010 German drama film directed by Chris Kraus loose adaptation of the diaries written by poetess Oda Schaefer combining a coming-of-age story about a precocious 14 year-old girl with the apocalyptic end of an era.
In the summer of 1914, fourteen-year-old Oda von Siering (Paula Beer) leaves Berlin to join her family and an assortment of German and Russian aristocrats on an estate in Estonia. The von Siering family home is a character in its own right, a hulking, neoclassical manor that hovers on stilts above the sea.
Childhood’s End is an American television miniseries based on the novel of the same name, by Arthur C. Clarke, and developed by Matthew Graham. It premiered on Syfy on December 14, 2015.
After peaceful aliens invade earth, humanity finds itself living in a utopia under the indirect rule of the aliens, but does this utopia come at a price?
spacetime coordinates: June 1943 – July 1944 Lwów city, Poland
(this one’s heavy)
In Darkness (Polish: W ciemności) is a 2011 Polish drama film directed by Agnieszka Holland. Dedicated to Marek Edelman, the film is a Polish-German-Canadian coproduction, with a screenplay by Canadian writer David F. Shamoon. In Darkness is based on the book In the Sewers of Lvov (1990) by Robert Marshall. The only living survivor of the group, Krystyna Chiger, has written a memoir of her experience, The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust’s Shadow (2008), which was published too late to be a source
Based on true events during German occupation of Poland, the film tells a story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker in the then Polish city of Lwów (taken after World War II by the Soviet Union, and now part of Ukraine), who used his knowledge of the city’s sewer system to shelter a group of Jews escaped from Lwów’s ghetto during the German extermination of Jewish people.
“‘These were terrible times’: the true story behind In Darkness”