The Aniara is a spaceship taking emigrants to their new home on Mars. The Earth has been poisoned to the extent that it will no long hold life. Some people have been sent to Venus and some to Mars. The Aniara is just one of many ships that have made or are making the trip.

The Aniara is run by a computer called Mima. A mechanic that is referred to as Mimaroben operates Mima. When the ship automatically avoids a collision with a previously unknown asteroid it is thrown off its orbit. When the Aniara goes out of its trajectory and off into space the news given to the passengers is certainly not sugar coated. Despite the dire circumstances the Captain urges the passengers to look on the bright side. They may have been jettisoned into the black and empty vastness of space, toward the constellation Lyra, but they haven’t crashed. He then urges them to dance.

No amount of dancing and singing is going to keep the emigrants happy for long. When the Earth blows up, Mima can no longer work. With the computer no longer functioning the commander of the Aniara, Chefone, blames Mimaroben and the human pilot of the ship, Isagel. The ship continues on in the vastness of space and low morale deepens into despair. The ship that was meant to take everyone to a new beginning may eventually become their coffin.

“Aniara” was released in 1960 and was directed by Arne Arnbom. It is a made for TV Swedish science fiction opera. Not a space opera but an actual opera that happens to take place in space. The avant-garde play-like production is based on the epic poem “Aniara”, written by Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson. The opera was created by composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl and libretto Erik Lindegren. The dance choreography was done by Kaare Gundersen and Birgit Akesson. The film was remade as a standard science fiction film in 2018 by Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja.

To The regular science fiction fan the movie is tedious and weird. To the avant-garde fan it is sweeping yet simplistic in staging. The English subtitles in my copy of the film are questionable, and at times not even English. Not that a translation helps you very much. You’ll need even more patience in the beginning as the film looks more like a still photograph than a movie. Even when the cast begins to sing you are not sure if the picture is actually moving.

At times the film is surreal and at others it’s just ridiculous. I’m not sure how many Swedish science fiction operas there are but if this is any indication of what they’re like, there’s not going to be a long line at comic con to see them.

The title comes from ancient Greek, meaning sad or despairing. it is appropriate.