Distopias with heavy-handed governments were one of the first things dreamed of by science fiction after the industrial revolution. Metropolis, 1984, and, We collectively looked to Big Brother (and originated that phrase) as the big bad guy. The Antenna tries to carry that torch, but fails to have much to add to the conversation.
The film mostly follows Mehmet (Ihsan Önal) during his day at work watching over a large concrete apartment building. But this is no ordinary day. A new satellite dish, or “antenna,” is being installed on the building so that the residents can get the all important midnight broadcast from the government’s new communication channel. There seems to be little excitement or disdain for the new system; it just is. When the man installing the dish dies by falling from the roof, the same uninterested fanfare meets his death. These people never get excited about anything.
So when a resident asks Mehmet to look at the black water in her bathroom, he thinks nothing of it. This black sludgy liquid is leaking all down her shower walls, which he dutifully cleans up and moves on his way. What he does not know at the time is that this liquid is leaking out from the new antenna on the roof and it will soon seep into every apartment in the building and ruin all of their lives forever.
If this sounds exciting, calm down. The Antenna does have its moments, but overall it crawled along very slowly. We get plenty of time to sit quietly with Mehmet in his office shack, or sit with a building resident as they watch television or hang a framed photo on the wall. For all of its attention to detail, The Antenna does not seem to think the audience has much skill to understand this nuance and choses repetition over subtlety. It’s points are belabored and looped throughout the film with little distinction or argument building. It just shouts the same thing over and over again.
When The Antenna eventually takes us where it wants to go, it is clear that the thesis of the film that it has been trying to articulate for the past 90 minutes does not stretch much further past “big governments are bad.” That is quite evident in the dystopian version of Turkey we have seen this entire time, but substituting black liquid into the allegory for the long grasp of control and then making us see if spread apartment by apartment without trying to deepen the allegory is tedious.
This is not to say that The Antenna is poorly constructed. The film looks fine enough, the performances sufficiently bleak, and the score is quite emotive, but it asks a lot of the audience’s attention and then never rewards them.
With all of the subtlety and nuance of a sledgehammer, The Antenna still misses its mark.
The Antenna is coming to select theaters October 2nd, and on VOD October 20th. We also reviewed the film out of TIFF 2019.