Netflix's algorithm is a blessing of homogeny. If you like one movie, below it are countless "More Like This" options that are somehow similar even as they range from indie hits to blockbusters. Using this feature, you can watch hours of content that flows seamlessly from one to another. However, there are movies that fall through the cracks purely because they are unlike anything else. This Argentine sci-fi throwback is one of those movies.
The Aerial, first and foremost, is a silent movie. It came out in 2007 but looks like the classic sci-fi films of cinema's infancy, like Metropolis or A Trip to the Moon. It depicts a nameless city where the populace has lost the ability to speak, instead communicating in subtitles that appear in the air around them. The only person with a voice is the mysterious television host La Voz.
The plot follows a young girl named Ana and her family as they encounter a conspiracy to use La Voz's voice as a deadly weapon and fight to stop it using her young son, who inherited her ability to speak. "They can take our voice, but they can't take our words," Ana's father says. That becomes the thesis statement of the entire work.
Beyond the surface-level plot, The Aerial is the story of a voiceless people joining together to conquer a dictatorship. This subtext is made almost too blatant when the villainous Mr. T.V. straps La Voz into a machine that will turn her voice into a deadly weapon — a machine that happens to be shaped like a swastika. In turn, the machine Ana's family uses to project La Voz's son Tomás's voice is shaped like the Star of David. It's doesn't take a film degree to distill the allegory.
The joy in The Aerial is how it revives the experimental form that film took when it was brand new. Practical effects are combined with film cutouts and exposures to create a movie where every shot feels new and revolutionary. It comes as no surprise that the director, Esteban Sapir, is primarily a cinematographer. He throws every filmmaking trick that exists at The Aerial, all without relying on CGI to create something after the fact.
You can't talk about silent movies without talking about the score, and The Aerial's score is something else. Through its haunting strings, it feels like you can hear the dialogue even though you're merely reading a translation of subtitles that are appearing on the screen.
Whether you're a sci-fi fan, a cinephile, or just want to immerse yourself into a literally monotone yet immensely colorful world, The Aerial is the perfect love letter to everything that made movies great — and made them what they are today.
The Aerial is now streaming on Netflix in the U.S.