TIFF 2020: The Archivists (Igor Drljaca, Canada)

By Adam Nayman

A significant change of pace for Bosnian-Canadian filmmaker Igor Drljaca after a run of Balkan-themed hybrid fictions and docs, the sci-fi-inflected The Archivists concerns a trio of future-shocked musicologists trying to reconstruct an I-Love-the-’80s hit, using improvised instruments in an abandoned country home. The theme is the durability and necessity of art (or Top 40 pop) in the face of dystopia, and if Igor wants to use a semi-obscure British synth-pop trio for his test case, who am I to argue? (That’s as far as I’ll go in terms of spoilers, although anybody over the Age of Consent can probably guess the band). The reference points here are clear enough: I thought immediately of Fahrenheit 451 and the outlaw intellectuals reciting literature in the woods, and as a Bradbury riff, The Archivists is more concise and compact than the apocalyptic tremors recently on display in Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow. The familiar actors—Noah Reid, Bahia Watson, and Short Cuts axiom Maxwell McCabe-Lokos—are all solid in roles whose common denominator is a sense of rhythm: they make nice music together.