Friday, 4 November 2016

WATCHING: HyperNormalisation (2016)

Despite it's 166 minutes, Adam Curtis' latest iPlayer offering is incredibly watchable, as we become sucked into a trance of archive footage and Burial, and by the end of the experience your eyes are burning and your head is spinning. Is all that true? Are the worlds governments responsible for the dumbing down of politics? Are UFO's really a conspiracy created by the US government to cover up their military weapon testing? Did Brexit really feel like that pigs blood scene in Carrie?

If there is one constant criticism of Curtis' documentaries, its that they are incredibly one-sided (as I mentioned in my review of Bitter Lake), and deceptively persuading. Massive, over-arching ideas are supported by distracting smaller anecdotes. HyperNormalisation describes to us the idea that we are living in a "fake world", designed by corporations, maintained by politicians, and that we, the hoi polloi, are all content with it because at least we get to watch cat videos. For a film that decries how simple and deceptive our world has become, we are treated to a film that it itself could be accused of being deceptively simple in its arguments.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh. I would not be watching this if I wasn't interested in what Curtis had to say. Some of the stories he describes obviously have devastating effects when constructed within his narrative; banks forcing austerity on New York, Henry Kissinger trying to fracture the Arab world with "constructive ambiguity", Muammar Gaddafi becoming the West's bogey man so they would lift sanctions on Libya, and how the reliance on risk analysis came, in the end, to be unreliable. Society seems to be fracturing around us, but nobody can imagine an alternative, so we all pretend that its OK.

However, its our own faults. Those goddamn artists and protesters in the 60s just couldn't be bothered in the 70s, and so radical individualism came into play, instead of personal commitments to society. If there's one thing we can control, its ourselves, and so we became obsessed with keep-fit videos and click-bait. Curtis uses some arguments that are not as convincing as others when it comes to why apathy seems to be on the rise. Its true that the echo-chamber of news stories amplified on social media is a problem, but he doesn't really go far enough in way of any real explanation (even using the analogy notoriously dumb chatter-bot ELIZA seemed a little too simple).

Although highly stylised, Curtis' documentaries always offer a unique perspective on subjects that are usually incredibly dry and seemingly impenetrable. Watching HyperNormalisation gives you a whole new perspective on world events, but we need to be careful and not become complacent in Curtis' apparent authority, lest we all turn into the likes of Russell Brand. Documentaries are meant to educate, and now that we know, we need to try to understand.

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