Best of Tribeca: "Metropia"

Brainwashing through dandruff control, in a dark, arch Euro-futurist animated fantasy

By Andrew O'Hehir

Published May 3, 2010 7:03PM (EDT)

An image from Tarik Saleh's animated film "Metropia." (Courtesy Trust/nordisk)
An image from Tarik Saleh's animated film "Metropia." (Courtesy Trust/nordisk)

A mumbling, dystopian dream-state animated film largely set within a vast subway system that links all of Europe's major cities, circa 2024, Swedish director Tarik Saleh's "Metropia" feels like a mash-up of scenes, ideas and metaphors from all over the sci-fi universe. It's a little bit "Matrix," a little bit "Blade Runner," a little bit "Robocop," a little bit, I don't know, "Soylent Green." Except in this case the green stuff is shampoo, a ubiquitious dandruff remedy that, as everyguy protagonist Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo), gradually learns, is also the vector for some kind of corporate mind-control experiment.

Gallo's character ventures down the rabbit hole after following a lissome shampoo-ad model (Juliette Lewis) on a long nightworld journey through the interconnected subway system. He meets other people too, including the guy who supplies the voice in his head and the executive who appears to control the world. You'll also hear the voices of Udo Kier and Stellan Skarsgard, and yes, this is very much their kind of movie. Maybe the plot of "Metropia" is inscrutable and Saleh's cutting-edge European digital animation sometimes feels too cool for school, but what hooked me was the film's tone of gentle self-mockery, mixed with its genuinely mysterious atmosphere. You don't have to know what's going on to feel seduced by the ambient murmur and gentle self-mockery of "Metropia," which seems channeled straight from the 21st century's collective subconscious.


Andrew O'Hehir

Andrew O'Hehir is executive editor of Salon.

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