This article was last modified on July 21, 2017.


Fantasia 2017 Film Review: “The Laplace’s Demon”

A glass in free fall. Have you ever thought if it is possible to calculate into how many pieces it can break into? After numerous experiments, a team of researchers succeeds in doing just this apparently impossible task. Attracted to their experiment, a mysterious professor invites the scientists in his isolated mansion to know more about their studies.

This film was intriguing before the first frame because of its name: “The Laplace’s Demon”. Anyone who knows philosophy or physics will recognize Laplace as a strong promoter of classic mechanics and therefore determinism. His “demon” could theoretically predict the future because all atoms move in a set pattern. Not unlike LaMettrie, his ideas strongly suggested a predictable, deterministic world was not just theory but reality. And, sure enough, this factors into the film at hand.

The concept of being able to accurately predict how many piece a glass will shatter into has some physics potential, but it has even more philosophical potential. And we see this when the scientists reach the mansion – as they have seemingly achieved a limited understanding of determinism, it is fitting that they themselves become pawns (literally) and their every move is predicted by forces unknown.

Due to the philosophical nature of the film, and its monochrome cinematography, it is being compared to the original “Twilight Zone”. This is a fair comparison, and indeed it would fit in well alongside some of Rod Serling’s finest scripts. But another fair comparison is to the work of Guy Maddin. Somehow we find ourselves in a rather timeless world, much like Maddin’s throwbacks to Eisenstein. We know the film takes place in modern times because of the computers and such, but the look still has something of a retro or antiquated feel. The mansion itself would fit in well in a “dark house” film of the 1930s.

Going any further might risk giving too much away. The film does have some odd quirks about it, such as an Italian man named Jim Bob. Really? But all things considered, this is a great film and one that will make the brain wrinkle a little bit more than usual. “Laplace’s Demon” screens July 21, 2017 at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

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