Silent Running (1972)
Dir: Douglas Trumbull
Humans have messed up the Earth… again!
This is a common theme in science-fiction films, and this is one of the first films to really bring it to the fore. ‘Silent Running’ is set in a future where the Earth’s flora has all been ruined, the remaining plant life is made into small forests in bio-domes, and put onto a small fleet of American Airlines spacecraft and sent into space. However, after years of tending for these with the aim to return to replant them on Earth, the project is axed and orders are given to nuke the domes. One man, Freeman Lowell, an astronaut who really grasps the importance of the forests, refuses to comply with the orders, and fights to protect the very last one.
Watching this tonight, the influence it has had on more modern films was very clear. ‘Wall-E’ had a very similar theme, and took influences from this in many areas, including the robots, spacecraft run by big corporations, and of course the importance of plant life. Also, as Lowell has a lonely time on the ship, it is very much like Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’ which is also about a man alone in space. Even Danny Boyle’s ‘Sunshine’ featured a forest on a spaceship.
I think this theme will continue to be persistent in science-fiction, as people often do raise concerns about the Earth’s climate and how that is affecting nature. ‘Silent Running’ has to be among the best of these films though, as there’s a really great sense of atmosphere throughout, with beautifully crafted effects, and careful use of sound and music to bring the focus in on the message.
I won’t put the trailer here, it spoils far too much, just watch it!