“You must not do the things I do…”
Cosmic Candy almost didn’t happen due to budget constraints but I’m so glad it did. This film – a first time feature film for director Rinio Dragasaki – follows protagonist Anna. She works in a supermarket which stocks a product called ‘Cosmic Candy’ which is “a potent version of Space Dust/Pop Rocks that sends its user into a dreamlike, hallucinogenic state”. In real life, Anna’s world is drab and seems to be orderly which is illustrated beautifully through the almost militarily organised shelves at the shop and the shelves in her home, but behind the curtain Anna is spiralling. She cannot function in real life without some sort of drug.
One day her whole world is turned upside down by a young girl called Persa who has been abandoned by her father. He has supposedly told her he will be back for her. Anna is faced with caring for this child who pulls her more and more to reality and brings to the light her idiosyncrasies.
I really liked Anna’s character. She was a pretty complicated, dysfunctional person who just wasn’t capable of dealing with normality and had this childlike personality. You could imagine that she was a teenager and not a 30-something year old but she is also capable of change, and that’s what is so refreshing about her character. I noticed that as the film progressed you see that the shelves and the tidiness around Anna gets more chaotic as she unravels, and I really liked that device.
The visuals for this film are really really good. It’s trippy and vibrant and shows you the inner workings of Anna’s mind while she is on Cosmic Candy. However, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There’s this repeated paranoia element within the trippyness, which if you have taken drugs and had a bad trip you will probably recognise. There are multiple moments in the film where Anna is at the centre of a larger audience’s ridicule, i.e. pointing, laughing and so on, but it seems like it’s probably all in her mind. It’s definitely the stuff that nightmares are made of, and seems to stem from this thing of wanting to be accepted when in reality she is kind of a loner (though some of that may be of her own choosing).
I liked the inclusion of (I think???) Debussy’s music through these weird celestial keyboard sounds which perfectly matches the trippy vibe of the movie. I also enjoyed the mix of ethereal, theramin sounds, and then also the very quaint, fun pop and electro songs, like the one about french toast, or computer song with its lyrics “I program my feelings away”. Computer humour snarf! 🙂 I see what you did there!!!
I noticed what might be an Easter Egg but I wasn’t able to ask the Director this. There is one scene where Anna is at her home. This is after she starts to spiral. I noticed a spinning tractricoid toy, like the ones in the film Inception. In Inception, the device is used so that protagonists can determine whether they are in reality or if they are in a dream (within a dream within a dream). If the toy doesn’t fall like gravity dictates, they know they are in a dream state and indeed in Cosmic Candy, you don’t see it fall, so I felt like that was a device to illustrate the dreamlike state that Anna was in. Its inclusion whether intentional or not made me really second guess if any of it was real as the story progressed. Maybe Anna was in a dream the whole time? Maybe the girl wasn’t real? Maybe the girl… dun dun daaaa WAS HERSELF?!
The film cascades with the ending sequence where Persa is due to act in a school play. The play is about Manto Mavrogenous, who was a revolutionary Greek commander and a woman (yeehar!!) so there are definite Feminist messages in the film. For those who don’t know, Manto was part of a secret society called Filiki Eteria which was a movement attempting to overrun the Ottoman empire which massacred the Greeks. I was really psyched to see this featured in the movie for my own personal reasons. My dad is Black (half Trinidadian/half Chinese) but my mum is actually Greek. Her heritage is of the Pontic Greeks who emigrated from the mainland to a mountainous region to the North of what is now Turkey called Pontus. Over many centuries of the Ottoman rule, Greeks were forced to leave Pontus to neighbouring countries for safety and things came to a head in the first world war where Pontic Greeks were taken from Pontus and ritually massacred or forced to take part in something called a ‘Death March’, which is where you are made to walk to concentration camps and those who have died along the way are left. My own great grandmother and grandmother (and her siblings) were actually caught in the middle of this but managed to escape from what would have been certain death, apparently into a forest and from there into mainland Greece (and similarly my great grandfather and grandfather escaped eastward to Georgia). So the strength that they sing of about the fierceness of Greek women in this story is something that I feel very strongly in my own family history, and Anna definitely channels that strength for herself. Brava! Anyways, I digress.
So all in all, I really enjoyed this film. I wasn’t sure at first what made it sci fi but then any world which would legalise hallucinogenics must be an alternate reality (lol). It’s such a compelling story, with this underlying unease like something is very wrong and the visuals blew my MIND. Check it out!
You can watch Cosmic Candy here, but you will need to buy a film or festival pass.