I stumbled upon this little French Science Fiction film whilst browsing through the films at a local video store and rented it on a whim. Although an interesting concept, "Dante 01" comes off as an odd combination of cheap 80s cheese and brilliant symbolic madness that is never able to harness either into a balance that would have made it as great as the concept would have one believe. "Dante 01" is too artsy for its own good at times and seemingly forgets that it still is indeed a film made for enjoyment.
Dante 01 sits on the edge of what the world considers civilized. Its a sparsely manned station, with only a handful of scientists, two guards, and some of humanity's worst criminals that have agreed to be put there as test subjects for some new experiments instead of receiving the death sentence. Life gets even more exciting when a new researcher bringing a new 'treatment' using nanotechnology arrives with an unknown inmate who has the ability to take away death.
"Dante 01" is one of those films that is so steeped in symbolism and artistic choices that more often than not, it comes off as confusing and rather arrogant. There's so much of these odd symbolic moments and layers that they seeming overlap and counter balance themselves into a cluster fuck of irrelevancy to the story. I'm all for deeper meaning in movies and symbolism, but when it fails to connect to the story or audience than it might as well have not been added to begin with.
Aside from that, "Dante 01" does run some nice artistic threads. The color schemes and odd lighting effects bring back moments of 80s low budget Sci Fi and some of the more dizzying effects and shots will give you something to ponder on how they pulled it off. Impressive acting on multiple levels (particularly from our supporting cast of criminals) leads to better believability despite some ridiculous looking 60s style props. Like I mentioned earlier, "Dante 01" is just an odd mix of old and new style Sci Fi. I just wish that they could have blended it better.
For fans of Science Fiction, this one may not be the best thing you've see even in the last decade or so. It's too smart for its own good too often and most of the elements of the film are just saturated with symbolism that comes off as too much and too confusing. At its foundation, the story is solid but its too forced especially its beat you over the head religious over toned ending.
BONUS RANT: So you have this big ass space station that keeps an orbit over the planet Dante (or hell as the people on the station call it) and you have a bare bones crew of scientists, a few guards, and patients. Who the hell takes care of the station? Not like you can call maintenance to just ship out there to fix the leaky faucet. According to the film it was like a two year trip or some shit like that. Oh that's right, details are irrelevant to the symbolism in this film. Either way it bugged me through the entire movie that there wasn't WORKERS on the station.
Written By Matt Reifschneider