CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • TBC
  • Sci-Fi
  • 1971
  • 90 mins

Silent Running

Silent Running

Synopsis

A virtuous science-fiction classic in which Bruce Dern's lone astronaut champions the last remnants of Earth's plant life. The directorial debut of FX man Douglas Trumbull, scripted by Michael Cimino

About

Usually when one refers to little green men in science fiction movies it is to aliens from Mars. The green man in this ecological post-nuclear holocaust space-age tale is botanist/astronaut Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern). Lowell is a crew member on board the Valley Forge, a giant spacecraft that contains the remnants of Earth's plant species in vast greenhouses. These ecosystem raw components are stored in space with the intention that they be used to refurbish the damaged homeworld. However, orders come from Earth that the vegetation be destroyed - forcing Lowell to take drastic action with his three crewmates who are prepared to comply.

Assisting Lowell are three cute robot "drones" - Huey, Louie and Dewie - whose vigilant efforts to keep the craft in order form much of the narrative drive of the film, alongside Lowell's own disintegration through isolation and despair. Given that for the most part the only human character is Lowell, there is very little dialogue.

Silent Running was the directorial debut of Douglas Trumbull, the one-time illustrator for NASA and special effects expert whose innovations contributed to the sublime accomplishments of 2001: A Space Odyssey (later he also worked on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Blade Runner). Although the special effects work is impressive - the long, thin spacecraft with its greenhouse domes floating in the blackness of space make for a striking image - it's the poignant pathos of the film that is its most abiding characteristic.

Co-scripted by Michael Cimino (who would make his directorial debut two years later with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) Silent Running is a deeply melancholy, profoundly elegiac movie. The film gave environmental concerns grand expression at a time when their seriousness was first becoming moot in the popular experience. That they are still so important today, sadly, maintains the film's potency and moving power.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Mark Persons, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, Steven Brown, Bruce Dern, Jesse Vint
  • Director: Douglas Trumbull
  • Writer: Michael Cimino, Steve Bocho, Deric Washburn
  • Producer: Michel Gruskoff
  • Photographer: Charles F Wheeler
  • Composer: Peter Schickele

In a nutshell

Among the most intelligent and entertaining sci-fi films of the 1970.

by Daniel Etherington

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 The Babadook

    The Babadook

    Widowed mum Amelia (Essie Davis) finds caring for her wayward child Samuel (Noah Wiseman) a tall order. But shes more or less coping until a scary picture book about the mysterious Babadook starts to haunt this single parent family

  • Film4 This Is Where I Leave You

    This Is Where I Leave You

    Shortly after discovering his wifes infidelity, Judd (Jason Bateman) learns of the death of his father. Forced to return to his childhood home to spend a week with his mother, four siblings and his extended family, Judd tries to take stock of his life.

  • Film4 Beasts of the Southern Wild

    Beasts Of The Southern Wild on Film4

    Quvenzhané Wallis stars in an Oscar-nominated role as the six year-old Hushpuppy in Benh Zeitlin's magical realist drama on Film4

  • Film4 Killer Joe

    Killer Joe on Film4

    Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple star in William Friedkin's noir thriller on Film4

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share