Epsilon (1997) poster

Epsilon (1997)


aka Alien Visitor

Australia/Italy. 1997.


Director/Screenplay – Rolf de Heer, Producers – Rolf de Heer & Domenico Procacci, Photography – Tony Clark, Music – Graham Tardif. Production Company – Australian Film Finance Corporation/Fandango (Italy)/Digital Arts.


Ullie Birvé (She), Syd Brisbane (The Man), Alethea McGrath (Old Woman), Chloe Ferguson & Phoebe Ferguson (Children)


In the future, an old woman tells two children a story around a campfire. She tells of how an alien woman from Epsilon appeared in the Australian Outback before a man camped out in the open. He was alarmed at finding her nude and with no idea what clothes were. He had difficulty accepting her claim that she came from Epsilon. She deplored being on Earth, which her people regarded as the worst place in the universe, having been badly polluted by humanity. He believed her story after she demonstrated an ability to transport them through space and time. She then decided that they should engage in a relationship.

Rolf de Heer is an Australian director who should be better known internationally. Since the 1980s, De Heer has charted a directorial career that is unique in its unusualness of subject matter. His films include Bad Boy Bubby (1993), a really twisted story of a mentally handicapped man; The Quiet Room (1996), which takes place from the viewpoint of an unspeaking child as she views her parents’ fragmenting marriage; and Alexandra’s Project (2003) about a wife’s taunting video left for her husband. De Heer has made a number of films set around Aborigines, their culture and place in modern Australian society with The Tracker (2002), Ten Canoes (2006) and Charlie’s Country (2013). He has also made occasional ventures into genre material, which have included the enigmatic UFO film Incident at Raven’s Gate (1988) and Dr Plonk (2007), a comedy about a time-traveling scientist that was shot as a silent movie, as well as Epsilon, which was retitled Alien Visitor for US release.

Returning, this time with Italian co-production deal, de Heer ventures into science-fiction subject matters for a second time. The whole of the film consists of a woman (Ullie Birvé) and a man (Syd Brisbane) – they are given no names other than She and The Man – who meet in the Australian Outback. Apart from the elderly woman who narrates the story to the two children in the wraparound scenes, these are the only two characters present in the film.

She claims to be an alien from Epsilon and is trying to find her way back home. After listening to her deplore how awful it is on Earth – she compares the situation to frogs in water staying there as the temperature is turned up to a boil – she teleports the man around the world and travels back and forward through time with him. She proposes they have a relationship. When he decides to break it off, she goes back in time and uses her foreknowledge to patch things back up.

She (Ullie Birvé) and The Man (Syd Brisbane) in the Australian Outback  in Epsilon (1997)
She (Ullie Birvé) and The Man (Syd Brisbane) in the Australian Outback

The film is reminiscent of Friendship’s Death (1987), which was set in a hotel in Jordan as Tilda Swinton tried to convince Bill Paterson that she was an alien android and similarly consists of frequently philosophical conversations between the two. Or else Man Facing Southeast (1986), later stolen as K-Pax (2011), where a psychiatrist at an asylum tries to deal with a patient’s claims that he is an alien.

In all of these cases, as here, the films consist of quirky conversations between the alien and human and gets some amusement out of the alien’s Outsider take on human culture and trying to make sense of the contradictions. Rolf de Heer places all of this against the backdrop of some beautifully shot, often slow exposure shots of the Outback landscape. The musings are often thoughtful. Especially amusing is the banter as the two decide to engage in a relationship where she deals with the breakup by simply going back in time and using her knowledge of things he has said to appear more understanding.

Trailer here

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