“I remember awakening in the dark along highway 48, miles from nowhere, confused and frightened, in the putrid innards of an opossum…”
So begins the narration of one of the most haunting films of 2017, “Musca Marsupial: the story of a housefly,” now showing at the Utopia Theater. [Note: Flies do not have last names as we know them. Their surname reflects the location of their larval stage.]
The film begins slowly, plodding its way through a brief and admittedly perfunctory overview of the early life of the fly. Once Musca emerges from his post-maggot peccadilloes, however, the film takes a serious tone; the Musca of two weeks, having learned to expect little mercy in a flyphobic world, scarcely resembles the carefree, optimistic insect of ten days. Musca sees schoolmates drown in beer, he watches as birds and bats eat aunts and uncles, and in a disturbing scene early in the film, discovers 86 of his closest siblings affixed to flypaper. As Musca slowly circles the gooey mess, his brothers and sisters wail and cry, some calling his name, others pleading for a quick death, a few singing hymns. The image of that scene will haunt my nights for weeks.
The narration of Musca’s spiritual awakening, shown from a fly’s perspective, is masterfully done, and the emotional climax of the film. As Musca hangs upside down in a porta-jon at a country music concert, he tries to discover the meaning of life.
“Stop acting like a bratty maggot,” he tells himself while a procession of drunken rednecks in John Deere caps answer nature’s call, unaware of the drama taking place on the ceiling.
“I’m gonna be a philosofly,” Musca eventually resolves.
The film ends as violently and abruptly as any in cinema history. Soon after his spiritual awakening, Musca finds himself in the company of a pretty, sophisticated female fly of three weeks, Fescia Dumpster. Somehow, the audience knows that Musca will be okay. Sure, he’s a fly, but he has accepted his flyness, that he’s not appreciated, that no one loves him, and he’s okay with that. Seeing the beautiful Fescia washing her legs, Musca experiences an overpowering urge to reproduce. He lands beside her on a meatloaf.
“Hello, I’m Musca,” he says, watching the twinkle of anticipation in Fescia’s compound eyes.
What follows is one of the most shocking scenes in cinema. Unnoticed by the lovestruck flies, a human enters the room. As Musca and Fescia exchange pleasantries, the human approaches. Suddenly, the flies are thrown into shadow, the screen goes dark and a SPLAT! resounds through the theater as the credits begin to roll.
It’s a cynical film, and the unvarnished reality of fly genocide will make you question your humanity, but you need to see this movie. The pootography is unparalleled, especially the scene in the porta-jon and another, near the beginning of the film, when Musca chases a garbage truck. The computer-generated flies are convincing. Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes. I’m not putting the tails up, but I’ll give this movie 5 squirrels. It’s that good.