Star Trek: Nemesis (12A) <br></br>Wild Strawberries (PG) <br></br>Sobibor, 14 October 1953, 4pm

Anthony Quinn
Friday 03 January 2003 01:00
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Set your phasers on stun – it's another Star Trek movie, the tenth in a series that's still boldly going where most franchises would have called it a day. Difficult to fathom how anyone can still be interested in this milky liberal-humanist sci-fi slop, though I dare say legions of Trekkies would set you right. Nemesis finds Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his doughty Enterprise crew diverted to God-knows-where by an offer of peace from the Romulans, longtime enemies of the Federation. The offer is a sham: the new Romulan leader Shinzon has seized power and intends to give it to Earth with both barrels.

The twist, if it can be so called, is that Shinzon is a biological clone of Picard who's gone to the bad after being exiled in his youth to what looks like the planet Hard Labour. One gets the impression that screenwriter John Logan thinks he has caught the contemporary mood by touching on the moral issue of cloning; I hate to disappoint him, but Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey was dealing with the problem of evil clones as long ago as 1991, and they were a damn sight funnier, too. What's more, few will be convinced by the replication of Captain Picard. Yes, the actor (Tom Hardy) has a shaved head and speaks English, but in face, demeanour and, most signally, voice he's absolutely nothing like Patrick Stewart. Those Romulan scientists need to do some catch-up work on reproduction.

The rest of the cast could do with a little readjustment themselves. Maybe it's just my age, but this Next Generation crew, which includes resident android Data (Brent Spiner) and dreary beardy second-in-command (Jonathan Frakes) aren't a patch on Spock, Bones, Scotty and the rest. The climactic battle of Nemesis is supposed to be edge-of-the-seat stuff, and in a way, for me, it was. My head had come to rest, quite comfortably, on that very spot.

First seen in 1957, Wild Strawberries is a key film in Ingmar Bergman's career, offering as it does a virtual précis of his enduring concerns: guilt, memory, mortality, the problem of "family" and the possibility of reconciliation. Victor Sjostrom plays Isak Borg, a 78-year-old professor who travels to Lund to receive an honorary degree. During the journey, by car in the company of his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), the old man is haunted by various dreams and reveries that prompt him to re-evaluate his early life: the loss of his fiancée to his older brother, a loveless marriage, estrangement from his only son and the realisation of his personal coldness (the name Isak Borg is surely a pun on "iceberg").

Some may baulk at Bergman's over-explicitness. The professor's first dream, in which he sees a clock without hands, meets a faceless man, is nearly knocked over by a horse-drawn hearse and then grasped by the hand of his own corpse, feels dangerously close to parody. How many portents of death does the guy actually need? Then there is the scrappy and uneven characterisation: Borg's mother, a crabby 96-year-old, is very thinly drawn, and his emotionally distant son Evald (Gunnar Bjornstrand) might as well be an allegorical character named Scandinavian Angst – "I was the unwanted child of a marriage made in hell," he tells his distraught wife.

Yet amid these torments of self-loathing come moments of extraordinary gentleness and grace, such as the scene where the three students who have hitched a ride with the professor serenade him at his bedroom window, and Sara (Bibi Andersson), a reminder of Borg's lost love, bids him a flirty farewell. I liked too the conversation between Borg and his affectionate scold of a housekeeper, who rejects the professor's suggestion that, after their many years together, they call one another by their first names – an improper intimacy, she reckons. Best of all, and reason alone to see the film, is Ingrid Thulin's amazing face, its sadness peculiar to a certain type of beautiful woman. Wild Strawberries launches a Bergman retrospective at the NFT and, for all its flaws, richly repays a visit.

Claude Lanzmann's documentary, Sobibor, 14 October, 1943, 4pm, records the testament of Shoah interviewee Yehuda Lerner, who took part in a violent prisoners' revolt against the Nazis at Sobibor. Interweaving this harrowing account with footage of contemporary Poland, the film overturns the mythology of Jewish acquiescence and forges a vital testimony to survival in the worst of all possible worlds.

'City of God' will be reviewed next week

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