Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the science fiction noir feature HIDDEN RESERVES by writer/director Valentin Hitz. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
“In a future where corporations use deceased debtor’s bodies for their own gain, an insurance agent begins to rethink his stance on humanity when he meets an activist.”
Regular readers will already know that I love both noir and science fiction films. While normally this would imply a bit of bias, I knew nothing about this movie before it started. Heck, I had so little information going in that I did not even realize this was a foreign film until the subtitles came on screen. Honestly, I am glad I did not know much as it made discovering these two genres mixed together a real joy.
The style of piece is retro-futuristic, where we see classic suits, nightclubs, and slums interspersed with high tech computers, cars, or skylines to create a nice blend of different generations. Thanks to a lack of plant life or daylight, the look feels well put together, but cold at the same time, which balances nicely with the various themes at play. While everyone may seem well groomed, there is an implication that a lot of nastiness is lurking beneath the superficial sheen.
This style set the tone perfectly as it made clear we would be following many classic noir beats, but seen through the socio political eyes of science fiction. It is the political ideas behind the science fiction that make this a fascinating tale, especially in our current political climate of big corporations. A company man who begins to doubt his employer is certainly not a novel conceit for a lead character, but it does provide us a great window into the world as we get to see both the business and the revolutionary factions.
The actors bringing these archetypal characters to life do a wonderful job of adding their own stamp to the roles. From the cool, aloof lounge singer to the tortured company man, it was nice to see that the performers did not get lost in the plot, but instead managed to bring some real depth to their parts. Our two leads had a chemistry that seemed so genuine it was hard to believe that either would ever betray the other. Of course, noir is in no way simple, so when the various turns of the plot came about it was a delight to see them handle their shifting motivations just as well as they portrayed their chemistry.
One final note before we go, I absolutely loved the music in this feature. The score itself has a nice beat to it that is very reminiscent of the films from the forties and fifties while there are a few standard songs sung during the movie that really added to the overall ambiance. If we did not feel as if we were in a retro-futuristic movie before, there is no way not to think we are when hearing the original songs “Today and Tomorrow” or “Teach Me Tiger” which both have an old world sound, yet are entirely new.
All in all, those looking for a noir movie set against the backdrop of a science fiction world are in for a real treat. Strong production values, memorable music, and dynamic performances combine to create a truly memorable experience that I would love to experience all over again. Fans of noir classics like CASABLANCA (1942) or more modern films with social commentary like BRAZIL (1985) would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable way to spend ninety minutes.