In 1686 the philosopher and scientist Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle published Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds. A pioneering mix of discussion and science that centred on his five-night stay at a chateau in France. The conversations with his hostess focusing on the nature of the universe and planets. And the infinite possibilities of the stars above us. These themes expanded the pre-defined notions of our place and purpose, challenging thinking while remaining essential reading today. But how do you take these themes and discussions into the world of modern film? The answer for director Oliver Krimpas and screenwriter Jonathan Kiefer is the creation of multi-layered romance with Around the Sun. A truly unique and beautiful enigma of love, belonging and science fiction.
Filmed in Normandy, Around the Sun had a brief run at film festivals in 2019. Its low budget charm and excellent performances from both Cara Theobold and Gethin Anthony earning positive reviews. However, as COVID 19 hit this is a film that could have simply disappeared into the ether but thankfully gains a VOD release this August. And we are more than pleased it does, as Around the Sun is nothing short of magical, beautiful and unique. With Krimpas and Kiefer delivering a delicate and nuanced two-person play wrapped in Fontenelle’s classic work. At the same time echoing the late-night discussions around philosophy and science, many of us will have experienced in our student days.
The story opens with English speaking Bernard sitting in his car outside of the gates of a run-down Chateau in Normandy. His phone still glowing with a text message from his partner signalling that he is soon to become a father. However, no joy is visible of Bernard’s face at this news. His reaction one of shock, remorse and uncertainty. But, Bernard is soon pulled from his inner thoughts by Maggie (a real estate agent) knocking on the driver’s side window, eager to begin an arranged tour of the chateau. With Bernards career as a film location scout the reason for his journey into the Normandy countryside.
As Maggie and Bernard walk through the grounds of the Chateau, their conversation becomes more and more personable. Their relationship one of comfort and meaning as they discuss the history of the house and its links to Fontenelle. However, as they near the entrance to the main building Maggie turns to Bernard and says “doesn’t this all seem familiar to you?”. At which point we are taken back to their initial meeting, however, this time it’s different, as a multitude of realities and possibilities take hold.
The journey that ensues is undeniably elegant; an ode to the enduring fascination of Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds. The film’s style and grace assured and enhanced by performances and direction that show a genuine love of its themes: the fragility and random nature of human connection sitting at the heart of the story. Alongside, the notion of universal belonging, destiny and grand design. With Kiefer’s delightful screenplay encapsulating the questions we all find ourselves asking as life’s mysteries converge with a universe of possibilities. The result is a delicate yet sharp reflection of belonging and love. That sits within the realms of the best in modern theatre. Its glowing sincerity and difference, leaving the viewer bewildered yet calm as science, fiction, and universal attraction converge.
Director: Oliver Krimpas