Throughout December, J.R. Jones and I will take turns writing about our favorite films that screened in Chicago this year.

Having seen it only once (with a mostly spellbound audience at the Chicago International Film Festival in October), I’m still undecided as to whether this philosophical sci-fi epic—directed by Alexander Zeldovich and cowritten by the great postmodern novelist Vladimir Sorokin—is a masterpiece or a gigantic, one-of-a-kind mess. I’m certain, though, that I’ve never seen anything like it.