Image via Göteborg Film Festival

That Time I Received An Invitation To Watch A New Sci-Fi Film — From Within A Coffin

Enabling viewers to watch films under ‘extreme conditions’ is a bold gamble

The subject line of the email in my inbox stated “The World’s Most Claustrophobic Cinema,” and was sent by representatives of the Göteborg Film Festival in Göthenburg, Sweden.

First, I was excited by the fact my site, which promotes independent genre web series and online short films, was on the radar of a prestigious European film festival.

Then, I was intrigued by the very odd subject line.

“What the hell is ‘the world’s most claustrophobic cinema?’”

While opening the email, I kept thinking “what the hell is ‘the world’s most claustrophobic cinema?’” After reading the message and visiting the official web site of the festival, I learned about one of the most audacious film promotions I have ever heard of.

One of the most anticipated movies being exhibited during the Göteborg Film Festival is the new sci-fi film ANIARA, which is based on the poem of the same name by Nobel-winning Swedish author Harry Martinson.

ANIARA is the tragic story of an enormous spaceship carrying the remnants of humanity fleeing an earth decimated by environmental disasters. Due to a malfunction, the ship is diverted from its original destination — Mars — and heads out of the solar system into the vast empty space between galaxies.

Like the poem, the film depicts the growing ennui of the colonists and their unsuccessful attempts at combating their feelings of despair and isolation.

To commemorate the debut of ANIARA at the festival, the filmmakers and event organizers want an eventful way to observe the effects of watching a film in, as their copy describes it, “extreme conditions.” They also want to give select attendees a truly unique viewing experience resonant with the tone of the film.

Their idea? To place a limited number of festival attendees in padded, coffin-like enclosures in order to watch the film.

(Disclaimer: The official ANIARA trailer contains brief nudity. It is NFSW and not appropriate for all ages. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Is this concept sensational, macabre, and creepy? Uh, yeah.

But it is also original, intriguing, and crazy enough it just may work by being the must-see activation of the entire festival.

I also think the experiment may have another unintended consequence: providing a grounding perspective on the current space race.

The narrative surrounding the current space race is with good old-fashioned gumption, persistence, ingenuity, and a liberal dash of free-market capitalism, traveling into space will soon become as ubiquitous as jumping on a red-eye flight.

Public interest in space is the highest it has been in decades. This is due to the latest programs by NASA and other space agencies around the world, as well as private initiatives funded by superstar tech billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson.

The narrative surrounding the current space race is with good old-fashioned gumption, persistence, ingenuity, and a liberal dash of free-market capitalism, space travel will become as ubiquitous as jumping on a red-eye flight.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is — according to its PR — on the precipice of beginning commercial flights into space (361,000 feet above the earth) using its reusable Unity spacecraft.

However, the cold, hard truth is space travel is extremely dangerous, and any malfunction, any human error, any miscalculation can lead to catastrophic i.e. fatal failure.

While we should be excited about the possibility of furthering human exploration of space, that exuberance needs to be tempered by the stark reality that along our journey to the stars there will continue to be a significant human cost.

How does this relate to watching a sci-fi film in a custom-designed, sarcophagus? Well, those stout souls who participate in the experience may gain a better understanding of just how isolating, mentally challenging, and precarious space travel is — which is the main theme of ANIARA.

Unfortunately, I will not able to attend the Göteborg Film Festival. Although if I could, I would most likely decline participation in the coffin experiment, instead opting to watch from the sidelines.

Hey, even though I am not claustrophobic, I know my limits. I don’t want to be placed inside a coffin until after I’ve left this mortal coil.

Regardless, only time will tell if “claustrophobic cinema” will be remembered as a bold experiment — or just another misguided publicity stunt.

Either way, it is sure to generate controversy and buzz for the film. What I hope does get created is a deeper appreciation for just how momentous and perilous real space travel is — and will continue to be.


Rod Faulkner is a huge fan of SFF and writes a lot about it. He is also founder of The7thMatrix.com, an ad-free site dedicated to promoting the best in indie SFF web series and online short films. Any support to help the site continue its mission is greatly appreciated.