It's time for Tony to close up his video store, which has served as a great place for nerds to talk about movies and overly philosophical thoughts around them. Tony goes to a lecture at a local convention to listen to a sci-fi writer where he talks about another world. The crowd laughs it off and leaves, but Tony is intrigued and buys one of the CDs that were available at the convention. Back home he paints a room black, and listens to the CD in complete darkness. Tony soon finds himself on Proxima.
The follow-up feature to "FAQ" is not too far away from it, as both are rather philosophical takes on science fiction. And it seems like he actually developed it into a solid style with this film. "FAQ" was an interesting debut but it definitely suffered from a few things. With "Proxima" he steps even closer to both philosophy and sci-fi, and comes out on the other side with something rather epic in terms of independent sci-fi. Sci-fi of this sort has never been too close to heart for me, but when Atanes makes it an artform I'm rather fascinated. Even though I keep fighting the other side of me that isn't up for it.
"Proxima" is essentially a planet that a writer talks about in a lecture at a local convention. He claims that they have found a portal directly to this world. No one believes him except for Tony, a video store owner who recently had to close down. He finds himself very open-minded about this, in hope to get away from Earth, so he buys an audiobook CD at the convention. After this he meets up with a few people that reassures him about this portal. And to his surprise, listening to it really opens a portal, and soon he has left Earth for Proxima. Walking around on this desert planet, trying to understand how it all works, and to get to know the other people who have successfully arrived as well.
The movie is aimed at both the kid and the philosopher in you. Even if said philosopher might be sort of a nerd. Everyone has thought about traveling to space in their youth and that's basically where this one starts off. Tony is a typical nerd, and he so wants to believe that he can travel to another world. Because of this, it works. There's also a lot of references within the film to people like Philip K. Dick (who is a great influence on this film). On the other end of it, it's not just about a nerd's fantasy. It brings up a lot of questions loneliness, being an outsider and ultimately how far believing can take you. If you think you're somewhere, are you really there? The typical philosophy phrase "Cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefor I am") springs to mind. I can't say it was intentional on Atanes' part, but something that is very easy to relate to in terms of philosophy - being one of the first phrases you'll ever hear in the subject. What saves "Proxima" is that it blends sci-fi and philosophy, but lets it remain on the sci-fi/nerd side of the spectrum. The movie doesn't question things, nor does our loser Tony. He believes, so it happens. You don't NEED to question what happens since the movie doesn't spend time on doing that, but it's one way of looking at it.
"Proxima" is a very strong effort because it takes the time to let everything sink in. It's nearly 2 hours long because it spends time building up our character in a very real Spain, before it sends it off into space. We know what kind of person Tony is, we know he's not in the best place of his life, and most importantly we know he's a geek. I think the first half of the movie is extremely solid, slowing opening up the possibility of another world while still staying on Earth. It's not until Tony actually arrives to said planet that we can visually recognize the film as a work by Carlos Atanes. Strangely appropriate (and at times poor) CGI effects, very peculiar characters, and almost no ties to the real world. It's possible that I enjoyed the first part of the movie more because of this. I was intrigued to see something more tamed by this surreal filmmaker. Something that doesn't instantly throw you into confusion. The first half is quite fantastic, and being that it developes really well it helps making the second part seem less wild and crazy as well.
I was not as hooked into the story during the second half as I was the first, but this might still be one of Carlos Atanes most impressive efforts. Purely in terms of storytelling there's no doubt that this is the best, but I think "Maximum Shame" worked better overall because it's an equal amount of crazy from beginning to end. If you're a fan of independent arthouse films or strange sci-fi, then you shouldn't miss "Proxima". As a fan of his work already, this was a joy to watch. Knowing that he is so devoted to his own style is very intriguing, and it makes each venture into his world exciting. I'm not a big sci-fi guy so I can't fully appreciate it all, but I wholeheartedly recommend "Proxima".