Fantastic Fest: ‘Vanishing Waves’ is Fascinating, Thoughtful Sci-Fi

By  · Published on October 1st, 2012

One of the best parts of Fantastic Fest is discovering those smaller films you’d never see otherwise. The type of gem that doesn’t get talked to death during its production, that doesn’t have its casting news splayed across the veritable plethora of movie websites, the type of film that just flies completely under the radar. Vanishing Waves is just that kind of film, that seemingly comes from nowhere to blow audiences away.

Lukas is part of a research team that has developed a new technology allowing one person to access another person’s thoughts. He’s been working long hours and not spending enough time with his live-in girlfriend, Lina, but his hard work has all been worth it, and they’re finally ready to start human trials. Lukas will be the receiver, trying to document and describe his experience receiving another person’s thoughts. They’ll be using a comatose patient for the sender, the lowered brain activity making the data load more manageable for transfer to Lukas’s brain.

After some initial glitches, the process works better than they could have hoped, allowing Lukas to clearly see into the comatose patient’s mind. Despite the team’s development of the technology as a one-way street from sender to receiver, Lukas finds that he is able to interact with the comatose patient and begins spending time with her manifestation of herself in her mind. Enchanted by the beautiful young woman and afraid that the trials will stop if he tells, Lukas keeps his findings to himself. Drawn further and further into her world, Lukas finds himself willing to do anything to continue the experiment.

Only the second feature film from writer/director Kristina Buozyte, Vanishing Waves is an impressive way of avoiding the sophomore slump. Buozyte directs with the sure hand of a much more experienced director, getting an amazing performance from Marius Jampolskis in the role of Lukas. Buozyte has crafted a vast and immersive world within the mind, drawing on films like The Cell and Inception but making a film that is still wholly her own. It is an absorbing entry from an assured filmmaker on the rise.

Aurora is a great name for the beautiful young patient. The name comes from the Latin word for “dawn.” And that’s just what she represents, the dawn of a new era, both for Lukas, personally and professionally, and for the medical community, with the new technology and understanding of comatose patients. The applications presented by the success of the trials are limitless. There’s also the astronomical reference where an aurora is a natural light display seen in high altitude regions. It’s the type of beautiful display that seems almost magical despite clear scientific information on their formation. The idea of entering another person’s thoughts seems magical to us now, but with constant technological advancement it may only be a matter of time before we have a clear scientific road map for that process as well.

Vanishing Waves is a smart, intense science fiction film. It features an incredible score that underlines the film’s themes and emotions. It’s beautifully framed and filmed, creating a captivating world with a large scope. While the technology is certainly important, it’s really a film about two people connecting against the odds. Quiet, cerebral and engaging, Vanishing Waves is just the type of intelligent film the sci-fi genre needs.

The Upside: Great direction, performances, score and cinematography.

The Downside: It’s not a perfect film, but I can’t think of anything to pick at.

On the Side: Vanishing Waves is from Lithuania, a country not exactly known for its genre exports.