One thing human beings are obsessed with is time. We are immersed in a flow that runs irreparably and indifferent to us as we desperately try to divert it and mould it to suit our needs. One of the ways in which we allude to controlling it is through narrative: by exploring the past with words and images, we are given the impression that we can control it in some way. It appears as though we can split it up and reduce it into smaller blocks. We feel we can move against the current, going back in time or frantically swim forwards to find out what will happen.
Simon Stålenhag is one of those writers who has narrated time. Born in Stockholm in 1984, he works at developing video games and composing music
, but most of all he is an artist and a concept designer who creates hyper-realistic sci-fi worlds. In Loop
(published in Italy by Mondadori in the Oscar Ink series), he uses the memories of characters to describe Sweden in the 1980s populated by futuristic, yet disintegrating machines.
The collection of stories in the book describes the consequences and effects on people and the surrounding environment of the largest particle accelerator in the world built in the Swedish subsoil and nicknamed "the Loop" by the locals.
There is a world of sadness in Stålenhag's illustrations, a feeling amplified by a diffused light that creates a nostalgic atmosphere while simultaneously hitting a constant note of anxiety.
Even in the nocturnal scenes, the lights on the robots and large cooling towers looming over the Swedish town leave no room for total darkness at night: it is as though the people who live near Loop cannot escape from their memories, not even in the dark of night and are forced to constantly confront the ghosts in their mind and the phantasmal figures of a technology that no longer shows the future but has become the outline of an era long gone.
The TV series, Tales From the Loop (full of flashbacks between one episode and
another) created by Nathaniel Halpern and visible on streaming on Prime Video,
was adapted from Stålenhag's Loop. From Sweden we move to provincial America,
to Mercer in Ohio, though the melancholic, nostalgic atmosphere remains the
At the start of the first episode, Russ Willard (played by Jonathan Price) speaks directly to the viewers to introduce the stories. Willard explains that he is the founder of the Experimental Physics Centre in Mercer, the Loop: the aim of this research institute is «to free and explore the mysteries of the Universe», demonstrating things that might seem impossible, «and yet they happen». Willard warns that what we will see are stories of some of the people who have lived over time in Mercer. At the heart of the adaptation of Stålenhag's book, we can again find time with its omissions and alterations caused by the Loop: those gaps in the fabric that wraps around the inhabitants of Mercer, who lose and re-discover themselves in those gaps.
Just as it was in the book, light is also a fundamental story telling element in the series. The photography reinforces the melancholy from which the world of Tales From the Loop permeates: the light accentuates the saturated colours and immerses the characters in a suspended atmosphere, making almost tangible, the changing, fleeting temporal dimension that has lost its characteristics and pivotal points which we are used to.
Just as it was in the book, light is also a fundamental story telling element in the
series. The photography reinforces the melancholy from which the world of Tales
From the Loop permeates: the light accentuates the saturated colours and immerses
the characters in a suspended atmosphere, making almost tangible, the changing,
fleeting temporal dimension that has lost its characteristics and pivotal points
which we are used to.
A few scenes from the series
The nostalgic glaze of the book and series - completely different from the familiar nostalgia of another series that combines sci-fi and nostalgia like Stranger Things - is the perfect backdrop for the human events influenced by the Loop and the technology linked to it: the pain, melancholy and sense of loss are amplified and resound more acutely thanks to the strange robots and abandoned machinery in the forest or along the lake shore, perfect reproductions of Stålenhag's illustrations.
A comparison between the artist's illustrations and scenes from the series
The science fiction of Loop and Tales from the Loop turns the spotlight not on solving the enigmas linked to time (as attempts are made to do, for example, in a series like Dark), but on the humanity assaulted by the consequences of the Loop, on how this research centre influences the relationships between people, leaving a sense of melancholy that does not pass even after the last page has been turned or after the final credits in the last, moving episode.