Entry updated 7 November 2022. Tagged: Film.
Argentinian film (1996). Universidad del Cine. Directed by Gustavo Mosquera R.. Written by Pedro Cristiani, Gabriel Lifschitz, Arturo Onatavia, Natalia Urruty, María Ángeles Mira and Gustavo Mosquera R, based on "A Subway Named Möbius" (December 1950 Astounding) by A J Deutsch. Cast includes Guillermo Angelelli, Roberto Carnaghi and Jorge Petraglia. Colour. 88 minutes.
The Director General (Carnaghi) of the Buenos Aires underground/subway system (see Transportation) is having problems: the lights and points are changing as if responding to a non-existent train, whilst the number 86 train and its 30-40 passengers cannot be located. He asks to see Decker, the architect who designed the system ... who sends topographer (see Mathematics) Daniel Pratt (Angelelli) instead. Pratt goes to the Ministry to look at Decker's plans, stored in a vast documents repository (see Libraries): however they have been taken by Dr Mistein (Petraglia), a consultant and University professor. He appears to have disappeared, but Pratt manages to enter his apartment and find the plans. After studying them, Pratt realizes train 86 is in a closed system, still running along with the other 299 trains. It is not seen because it has hit a node created by the Peripheral Line, a newly constructed route added to an already complex system. This has caused the creation of a Moebius strip "with an infinite number of peculiarities. Can you imagine the features of a system like that? ... I can't either" (see Dimensions). However, attempting to revert the system to its previous state by closing the Peripheral Line might lose the missing train. This explanation is met with disbelief from the authorities.
That night Pratt wanders the Peripheral Line – and is almost run over by the 86 train. He escapes by diving into a side channel, which takes him to a station named, significantly, Borges. A train arrives and he gets on, only to realize it is the 86. As well as the original passengers, who seem dazed, Dr Mistein is on board and introduces himself: they discuss Metaphysics as the train travels at an impossible speed – "We are travelling at the speed of thought." The following morning the Director General is told the 86 has been found at a station, empty; he meets the authorities there, who menacingly tell him to forget what happened, then depart. Finding Pratt's notebook on the train, he reads "... we live in a world where nobody listens"; as he leaves he learns another train is missing.
Between 1976 and 1983 approximately 30,000 Argentinians were abducted by the country's military dictatorship, to be tortured and, usually, murdered. Because of the secrecy surrounding these crimes the victims became known as desaparecidos, or the disappeared. Though its plot is based on the A J Deutsch short story, the film is primarily an allegory for these events and their aftermath.
The $250,000 budget was financed by the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires, where Mosquera was a teacher; it was made by him with some of his students. With most of the events taking place Underground or – when on the surface – in the evening or night, Moebius has the feel of a noir film, but with a mathematician in the private eye role. Though sometimes trying a little too hard to be avante-garde, this is a impressive and significant work. [SP]
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