As I popped in the screener for Children of the Dark, I thought, why am I doing this to myself? Why, out of over fifty films did I pick one described by the NYAFF as containing more horrible things per second than any movie we have ever shown before? All involving child trafficking? So I was pleasantly surprised and a little relieved when the silver disc labeled Children of the Dark actually turned out to be The Clone Returns Home, a film I have been anticipating highly.
Clone is a terrific addition to the canon of thinking man's sci-fi. It is the story of an astronaut's death and subsequent cloning and how that forces him to deal with the childhood death of his twin. There are no lasers or aliens or spaceships. It is a metaphysical rumination on identity and grief. In fact, despite being about an astronaut, the majority of the film takes place in the Japanese countryside.
The obvious comparison is Tarkovsky's Solaris, not just because of the slow pace and sci-fi setup, but because of the questions it raises about the soul. As in Solaris, apparitions of the deceased appear, begging the question, what does it mean to be human? Clone posits that a clone is a link between the world of the living and the dead, a resonance of the soul, and that any future clones would lack that resonance, essentially becoming souless. Heavy stuff.
A more recent comparison would be Duncan Jones' Moon, a film you could consider a companion piece to Clone. But whereas Moon uses its conceit as a twist, Clone is upfront about its intentions, choosing instead to use the idea of cloning as a springboard. From there the film is consistently engrossing, and, despite the deliberate pacing, never loses momentum. It is also gorgeous to look at. Like any great film of this type, it transcends genre and leaves you with a lot to think about.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hunt down a copy of Children of the Dark.