The film itself deals with the cyclical nature of existence, the ethics of freedom, the power of belief and the dangers of allowing that belief to fuel ideology, all told through the anthropology of an emerging society created when three astronauts from Earth crash land on a distant planet. For the film's first act we follow the point of view Peter who records events on a video-camera, as he, Marta & Thomas attempt to survive and start a new life in the barren, alien wilderness. After Marta becomes pregnant and gives birth to Thomas' baby, the astronauts realise that the child is growing at an accelerated rate. The film jumps forwards erratically as we are presented with snippets of a society emerging in front of Peter's camera lens, as the astronaut's children grow to maturity and themselves begin to procreate. The children begin to deify their astronaut parents, who seemingly never age as generations pass. The first act ends with Marta and Thomas dead and Peter, now referred to only as 'The Old Man', alone in a society of his children who do not understand his ravings, nor why he will not die like the others and ultimately they begin to resent his presence. Eventually, Peter returns to his space-craft and sends his hours of recorded footage back to Earth.
The second act revolves around Marek, the owner of the space agency that funded the first mission, who himself heads to the planet to escape the pain of a lost love, only to find a savage, incomprehensible and divided society of people who have been awaiting his prophesied arrival. He is regarded as their messiah and through his eyes we are introduced to the advancements in the beliefs and structure of the society since we last saw them. Marek becomes embroiled in his role as deity, guiding the society under his rule and leading the charge against a race of bird- like creatures from across the sea called 'Sherns' who steal women to mate with and produce mutated half-human, half-Shern offspring. The final act takes place primarily on Earth, where another astronaut named Jack is attempting to discern what befell Marek's mission to the planet. He is caught up in an affair with Ava, the woman for whom Marek left Earth, and in a fit of drug addled depression he himself heads to the planet, only to find the people's messiah, Marek, crucified in grisly fashion. Ultimately, Żuławski is dealing with some heavy themes here, asserting that humanity has a need to continually create and destroy his gods, that without belief there cannot be understanding and that without understanding their can be no happiness.
The world Żuławski presents is stark and beautiful, the Baltic shores, Caucasus mountains and Mongolian desert providing the barren and isolated landscapes that so capture the imagination throughout the film, but also it's the wonderfully designed costumes and props and cold, grey-blue cinematography that lend these places a true alien feel. Overall 'On the Silver Globe' is as intriguing as it is impenetrable. The frenetic camera work launches us directly into the midst of the chaos on-screen, events later explained more by action than dialogue as characters descend further into erratic and emotional madness, exploring the reasons for their being and the world around them through pained and awkward ad-libbed philosophical diatribes. While the narrative is most certainly confused, partly because of the unique journey of the film's production and release, and partly because of the confounding dialogue, the over-reaching story told is one that still conveys a powerful message about the nature of belief in human society and the desire to comprehend our existence. While most certainly not a film for everyone, 'On the Silver Globe' is a tough two and a half hour experience to endure, but one that repays it's viewer's diligence with some compelling food for thought and some truly beautiful cinematic scenes.