Pros: Surroundings of the Swedish countryside of the 70-80s. last century; the atmosphere of science fiction of the 40-50s; an almost literal transfer of some of Simon Stålenhag’s paintings to the screen; impressive cinematography; very successful selection of actors; music Cons: Extremely slow pacing of the story; fairly simple plots of each episode; conditional through-plot Tales from the Loop / “Tales from the Loop”
Genre fantasy, drama
Creator Nathaniel Halpern
Cast: Jonathan Pryce (Russ), Jane Alexander (Clara), Rebecca Hall (Loretta), Paul Schneider (George), Daniel Zolghadri (Jacob), Duncan Joyner (Cole), Tyler Barnhardt (Danny Jansson), Nicole Law (May) , Dan Bakkedahl (Ed), Ato Essandoh (Gaddis), John Kortajarena (Alex), etc.
Amazon Prime Video Channel
Year of release 2020
Simon Stålenhag became popular on the Internet about five years ago. Inspired by the work of Swedish ornithologist Lars Johnson, Star Wars character designer Ralph McQuarrie and concept artist Syd Mead, who worked on films such as Blade Runner, Tron, 2010: A Space Odyssey, Johnny Mnemonic and “Short Circuit”, Stålenhag began to paint landscapes of provincial Sweden that were well known to him, weaving fantastic elements into his paintings. Cyclopean cars and futuristic buildings; lost robots that wander through the fields; flying harvesters; children playing in strange ruins. All this was incredibly organically combined with traditional rural cottages, Volvo and Saab cars of the 80s. release; clothing and design of objects from the same period. One could say that this is pure retrofuturism, but there is something else in Stålenhag’s paintings, some amazing melancholy mood, characteristic, for example, of the works of Edward Hopper. These paintings could well become illustrations for science fiction works of the 40-50s. last century, the same stories by Ray Bradbury, for example.
At first, Simon Stålenhag sold his works, which he draws using a Wacom tablet but stylizes as classic oil paintings, through his own website. Then he combined them into albums of illustrations related to one theme. To date, three such books have been published – Tales from the Loop (2014), Things from the Flood (2016) and The Electric State (2018). In 2018, the Swedish company Fria Ligan created a rule book for a tabletop role-playing game based on the album Tales from the Loop, having previously conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign for the project. By the way, the mechanics of this RPG are based on the “engine” of Fria Ligan’s previous project – Mutant Year Zero, on the basis of which the turn-based RPG/strategy Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden was made. And right now, on the same Kickstarter, funds are being raised for a full-fledged board game based on Tales from the Loop. But let’s get back to the Amazon series.
Tales from the Loop tells the stories of several families living above and near a giant particle accelerator, the Loop. Experiments carried out in the Loop have certain effects on the area around the accelerator. Strange objects and anomalies appear here, alien robots roam, and inexplicable incidents occur from time to time. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the situation in “Roadside Picnic” by A. and B. Strugatsky – people find and bring home objects that have unusual properties, and these things influence their lives in one way or another.
In Stålenhag’s book, the Loop is located on the islands of Adelsø, Munsø and Svartsjölandet on Lake Mälaren west of Stockholm. It is difficult to unambiguously determine the location in the series; it could equally well be Sweden or the USA, however, the abundance of European, including Swedish, cars makes us lean towards the first assumption. The time period is the late 70s – early 80s, so the setting, clothing, cars and computers are appropriate. Despite the presence of robots and flying harvesters, there are no mobile phones here yet.
In general, in terms of its surroundings, Tales from the Loop is most similar to Stranger Things, Dark, Maniac and the game Generation Zero from the Swedish Avalanche Studios. But in terms of mood, the series is closer to Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams or classic science fiction of the 40-50s. last century, to the same collection “October Country” by Ray Bradbury (1955), which included stories written in 1943-54.
What the series also has in common with Dark is its tricks with time, plus its focus on several families living and working in the Loop. Each episode of Tales from the Loop is a separate story, but thanks to the characters they cling to one another. The main character of the next episode becomes one of the minor characters of the previous one. As a result, the series ends in… a loop. No, this is not a banal time loop, but rather a kind of metaphorical cycle, begun by a little girl in the first episode and completed by a grown-up boy in the last.
As already mentioned at the very beginning, the fantastic setting here is really just a background for talking about eternal topics. About what envy and the desire to take someone else’s place lead to; about the transience of time and the fact that parents grow old and leave too quickly; that work, especially if it is a favorite and interesting job, eats up your life, depriving you of the opportunity to spend time with loved ones; about the fleetingness of feelings; about finding your place; about what makes us monsters; about love, after all. Simple themes, many of which go back to folklore tradition. There is actually very little fantasy in this fantasy series.
But it does contain a lot of works by Simon Stålenhag, some of which are transferred into the film literally one after the other. The giant cooling towers in Beaune, visible from anywhere on the islands; strange Echosphere in Munsho; a robot loader controlled using a remote control glove connected to a backpack; Lerber-Alta combine harvester with magnetron drive; pickups for servicing cooling modules with a manipulator arm; wandering robot NIISO; sphere of exchange; buoys with blade turbines near Lanne; Focal towers by Göran Friske – all this is in the album of illustrations Tales from the Loop, all this is also in the series. But the authors took the first generation robot, it seems, from the album Things from the Flood.
We are well aware that Tales from the Loop is more of an arthouse series than a mainstream one, and not everyone will like it. It is incredibly slow, there is no coherent overall plot, many shots and scenes are not needed here in order to somehow advance the story, but serve a purely aesthetic role. Nevertheless, this is a very beautiful, kind and sad series, leaving behind a very pleasant aftertaste. Like old Bradbury stories.
A melancholy but very beautiful series, close in spirit to classic science fiction of the 40s and 50s. last century