Still from the movie Infinitum: Subject Unknown

Review: Infinitum: Subject Unknown – a sinister take on many-worlds quantum mechanics

The many‑worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which Stephen Hawking once called “trivially true”, states that all possible outcomes exist simultaneously in a massive decision tree. One popular and maybe slightly too mystical way to look at this is that the universe splits into separate universes where each outcome happens in one for every choice you make. By carrying out any action, we copy ourselves into a parallel universe where things are slightly different. This view is, of course, just an illustration to make the interpretation more understandable, much like Schrödinger’s Cat. No matter how stringent from a physics perspective, such a suggestive and far‑out image lends itself to some quite compelling storytelling dealing with life choices and free will. Outside the realm of science fiction, it has occurred in mainstream dramas such as Sliding Doors. However, to no one’s surprise, it’s within sci‑fi that the many‑worlds concept has been explored to the furthest extent in gems such as Coherence.

Infinitum: Subject Unknown is a new contribution to that tradition. Directed by Matthew Butler‑Hart, it tells a story of how many‑worlds quantum mechanics could mean something more sinister. Co‑writer and lead actress Tori Butler‑Hart plays one Jane that finds herself bound and gagged in the attic of a seemingly abandoned house. Trying to find a way out of the house, she keeps getting thrown back to where she started, gradually realising she is stuck in a time loop. Slowly getting used to the environment, trying out her options one by one for each loop reset, she manages to make progress. Not only towards leaving but also in figuring out the bigger picture that seems to be connected to the mysterious company Wytness. Reminiscent of the math‑escape‑room‑horror classic Cube, but with fewer death traps and more doppelgängers, it looks like someone is orchestrating all of this. What they have in mind remains obscure.

Written and shot amid the COVID‑19 pandemic, Infinitum: Subject Unknown employs a minimum in terms of cast and crew. Except for cameos by Ian McKellen and Conleth Hill and a couple of scientists, this independent production is primarily driven by Tori Butler‑Hart and a giant puzzle to be solved. Lending itself to audiences joining in on the clue‑hunting, it slowly unravels – or the opposite, depending on how you look at quantum decoherence – as Jane draws closer to the source of the involuntary experiment she finds herself in. The director states that Infinitum: Subject Unknown is just the introduction to a larger world. With both a television pilot and a graphic novel in the works, there is hopefully more clarity to come on the true intentions of Wytness and its operations. It is always uplifting to see this kind of ambition outside the major studios that otherwise dominate the idea of cinematic universes. Maybe it’s even becoming more common in indie sci‑fi overall, The Wanting Mare being another recent example.

The production circumstances, in this case, shows that imaginative projects can always find their way to the screen if there is a will. Smaller science fiction productions are often even advantageous because they force the filmmakers to rely on the writing and underlying ideas. This is precisely what Infinitum: Subject Unknown does, weaving its quantum mystery from the threads of screenplay and enormous implications. Although the viewer might end up with more questions than answers, they are curious rather than frustrating.

Infinitum: Subject Unknown had its premiere at the 2021 Boston Sci‑Fi Film Festival and is released on VOD in the UK, Ireland, Australia & New Zealand on March 22, 2021.

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