Fantastic Review: Transfer

By  · Published on October 15th, 2010

Nobody wants to die. But growing old can often seem to be a worse fate. People spend millions of dollars each year trying to stave off the effects of aging, utilizing everything from vitamins and supplements to plastic surgery in the effort to stay young. In a world where technology advances at an alarming rate, it seems like any day science will find a way to fix the problems associated with aging, though like any new technology, it will cost a pretty penny. While many other sci-fi films have dealt with similar themes, Transfer addresses them in new and creative ways.

Hermann and Anna are an elderly, well-to-do German couple. With Anna’s health failing, they consider a new option made available by an upstart biotech company. The company takes young, healthy men and women, and transplants another person’s consciousness into their body. In exchange the young people, who are mostly poor people from large families in poverty stricken countries, are given a large amount of money which can be used to help their families as well as 4 hours a day to be themselves while their counterparts sleep. If it sounds complicated, it isn’t. Hermann and Anna are matched up with a young African man and woman. Bodies are selected based on biochemical analysis, similar to the way organ donors are differentiated. Different body chemistries are more likely to facilitate a successful transfer. While Hermann is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of inhabiting a black man’s body, Anna’s decline and the company’s assurance that the Africans’ body chemistry matches theirs very well forces his hand resulting in his decision to sign on the dotted line. The transfer is completed and Hermann and Anna return home to live as a young African couple. But as the two African’s struggle in their 4 hours of personal time, Hermann and Anna also face problems they didn’t anticipate.

Clearly race plays a factor in the plot, but the elements of racism in the film are addressed naturally and tactfully. While Hermann is uncomfortable changing races, as many people might be, it takes awhile for his feelings to make themselves truly known. Hermann’s thoughts are pretty equally reciprocated by Apolain, the young African in whom Hermann’s consciousness dwells. But as in John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, it’s hard to understand someone else until you’ve walked in their shoes. Hermann experiences his own brand of racism, exercised on him by his oldest friends, elderly men who don’t want to be seen with a young black man. Through these trials, Hermann starts to feel a sort of empathy and kinship with the man whose body has become his vessel, discovering a sense of compassion for the less fortunate that he didn’t realize he had.

The movie, filmed on a fairly low-budget, never betrays its monetary constraints. Everything looks authentic and believable, allowing the story itself room to breath, without being hobbled by second rate production design. The acting is also top notch, with BJ Britt deserving special mention in what had to have been a difficult role, playing both a young frustrated black man as well as a curmudgeonly, old white man in the same flesh. While Regine Nehy is tasked with a similar role and easily holds her own, Britt is clearly the focus of the story with two different extremes threatening to burst his character at the seams. Ultimately, Transfer is a solid piece of science fiction, well told, well acted and well worth your time.

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