Boasting actors out of their depth, an incomprehensible, verbose script, and a single grim location, "Ascension" is a downer from start to finish. Pic posits an apocalyptic future in which a greater deity has bumped off God. Result is one <I>really </I>long, repetitive conversation that could just as well have played out on a bare stage.

Boasting actors out of their depth, an incomprehensible, verbose script, and a single grim location, “Ascension” is a downer from start to finish. Pic posits an apocalyptic future in which a greater deity has bumped off God. Result is one really long, repetitive conversation that could just as well have played out on a bare stage. But helmer-scripter-lenser Karim Hussain wanted to make a movie. Pic could generate a small cult following among undergrad types looking for Tarkovsky’s leftover tea leaves to parse, but it won’t be ascending into any arthouses, or rising up at many other fests.

Three robed women slog their way up endless stairs to the top of an abandoned grain silo throughout most of pic, and auds will feel every step. Apparently, they were decent people until the Earth’s denizens started killing each other and themselves and (here’s the tricky part) coming back to life over and over again to repeat the cycle.

Disenchanted nun (Barbara Ulrich) spits invective at the two younger gals trailing behind her, a pregnant one (Marie-Josee Croze) and a fresh-faced virgin (Ilona Elkin). The unholy trinity bumps into numerous corpses of people who failed to reach the top of the silo where they apparently were going to activate a doomsday device to end the world. However, there’s no explanation as to why a doomsday device would be stashed inside an abandoned grain silo in rural Quebec.

It’s hard to imagine an actor who wouldn’t have a hard time delivering this script’s lines, but when they are delivered phonetically by actresses for whom English is certifiably not a native language, the effects can be quite risible; Finnish transplant Elkin has an uncertain way around Anglo vowel sounds, while fans of Croze’s work in “Maelstrom” and “The Barbarian Invasions” may be shocked to see how lost (not to mention craggy) she appears here.

There are sophomoric digressions about technology and media, and for good measure, the woman with child makes what vaguely looks like a lesbian overture to the virginal one. This, like much of the dialogue, is utterly unconnected to anything else.

Nonetheless, “Ascension’s” 16mm footage has transferred well to 35, emphasizing steely blues and grays, and minimalistic composer David Kristian’s atmospheric sound design lends an “Eraserhead Meets Neil Labute” air to the proceedings. An ’80s-style dance number by Ladytron adds a touch of needed, if inexplicable, irony.

Ascension

Canada-Japan

Production

A Canyon Cinema presentation of a Zuno Films production, in co-production with the Klock Worx Co. (Tokyo), with support from Telefilm Canada. (International sales: Zuno Films, Montreal.) Produced by Samuel Gagnon. Executive producer, Yuri Yoshimura-Gagnon. Co-producer, Hiromi Aihara. Directed, written by Karim Hussain.

Crew

Camera (color), Hussain; editor, Eric Lavoie; music, David Kristian; production designer, Antonin Sorel; art director, Alexandre Jobert; costume designer, Patricia McNeil; sound (Dolby), Kristian; assistant director, Julien Fonfredie. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival, Nov. 1, 2003. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Marie-Josee Croze, Ilona Elkin, Barbara Ulrich, Gregoire Dunlevey, Laurent-Christophe De Ruelle.
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