A bit too simon and garfunkelly, but it’s one more piece in my puzzle about the changing ideas on freedom floating out there along with Franzen’s Freedom and July’s Future:
I want to hate Miranda with her theatrical weirdness and hipster clothes, I want to yell at her “man, put yourself together, get a decent fuckin’ haircut and some normal clothes so I can enjoy your damn movies” (and she actually does for half of the movie). She manages to capture things that preoccupy me and are so real and poignant, but I can’t concentrate on that because of her damned ridiculous cutesy weirdness. If I manage not to get pissed off and continue on, I’m always surprised and she manages to provoke questions, epiphanies and emotions that haunt me for days. I’m trying to look at her differently and think of her need to put her filmic persona in the movie as something similar to Charlie Chaplin or Woody Allen, but maybe because she’s a woman her self-irony sometimes strikes me more as ridiculous rather than comedic, narcissistic rather than brave. I’m still trying to figure out what it is about her that bugs me and so many other people I know and how much of it has to with my own fear of ridicule more than with her.
But anyway, The Future is probably the best film about the state of this generation that I’ve seen so far. And yet I’m somehow ashamed to admit it. It’s weird, sometimes funny, but mostly sad in a very strange way, not in the heroic tragic way, not in the suicidal way, but in an accepting and very nihilistic way. The image of a couple, each with their own laptop in from of them, physically near to one another, but mentally in parallel worlds, is like looking in a mirror reflecting my own life and its strangeness. The TV as a means of brainwashing is already a cliché, but we are still discovering what it means to spend half of your life in front of a computer, connected to the world. With the TV you had limited access to some channels you could choose from, but with the internet you have access to unlimited information, entertainment, shopping, the lives of others, dating, anything really, it’s like a portal to infinity. This flood of information is the power of the internet both in a positive and in a negative way, it democratizes information but it also causes a paralysis of the spirit and of initiative. It’s easy to see the internet as an immensely positive invention, our access to knowledge is so easy and immediate. Still, whenever my old father asks me how exactly the internet works, I find that I cannot explain, which creeps me out somehow as it shows me that unlimited access to information creates a lot more guilt with regard to the things that you do not know, or as Miranda July’s character says in the film, one day you realize that you are so far behind with the news that it makes no sense even trying to keep up.
Then there is our generation’s relationship to time. I found myself often talking to my friends recently about how time seems to just speed by us and that strange feeling of seeing days, months, years go by without even noticing and what’s worse without really doing anything, growing up, creating something, becoming wiser in any way. The other big elephant in the room is the strange uniformization of the bullshit-apple-“think different” generation, which made us all believe we are unique and special and potentially great artists of some kind. And what happened with the internet is that you realize there are billions of people just as special as you are.
If you want to kill a great idea that passed through your mind, well all you have to do is google it and realize it’s out there already. Someone said that this is a generation of designers, not of artists and somehow consumer culture is bringing art into our mundane life in a way that kills its aura. You get a Picasso printed table cloth and everyone is writing their life stories on blogs, everyone’s a photographer, a singer, or an artist of some sort and if they put it up on the internet they get an audience. A panda sneezing got millions of views and that’s not even the worst thing out there, heck, I might have been responsible for at least 5 of those views.
I was always against elitism in art, but lately I find myself craving those old elitist days, when art was something you felt privileged to have access to, not something you can download in 30 seconds and then forget all about in the next 30 seconds, and when you had to find more elaborate ways to express your opinions about someone’s creation than a thumb up or down. There’s something about this new power of the masses that makes me feel powerless. The same as the character in the movie that sets herself the task of creating 30 dances in 30 days, but ends up paralyzed in front of her laptop watching youtube videos of other women doing the same thing. Well, she’s the artsy contemporary ballet type and they’re more the pole dancing, hip-hop types, but the distinction becomes irrelevant when they are competing for views on youtube.
But the film is not just about these cultural issues; there are also the essential questions about what it means to be human, the constraints, but also the comforts of civilization, human relationships and the point of it all, living while being conscious that we are gliding away towards death every day, the things we put ourselves through in order to fulfill our idea of ourselves only to be bitterly disappointed, the numbness of daily routine and the trap of thinking we can escape it, the desire to feel alive and important, living in a time when we know we are at the end of our rope in so many ways, living with no higher outer guidance and this vague dictum of fulfilling ourselves. All these big questions are raised through the most mundane scenes possible, with nothing noble or dramatic about them. In fact it’s all anti-dramatic. Just like life, perhaps even a bit more ridiculous. And that cat talking so poetically about time, entrapment, civilization, love and death is the clearest example of the ridiculousness of her genius; we’re all that cat: taken from the wild put in our cages where it’s nice and warm and it’s no longer all about survival, we can rejoice, we get love, but also a hightened self awareness and a tragic sense of the passage of time.