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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Imagining the Future Through Film

The site Futurestates, part of ITVS, is a very cool site that challenges students to think about what the future will look like 25, 50, 100 years from now. The site combines films on pertinent subjects with lesson plans that tie in and challenge students to think about what they’re learning and hypothesize about what consequences might result decades from now, from choices they’re making today.

One of the Season One lessons, for instance, used Ramin Bahrani’s terrific short film Plastic Bag, narrated by Werner Herzog, to illustrate the relationship between humans as consumers and how we impact the environment without thinking.

One of the season two episodes, Exposure, which releases April 4, was directed by Mia Trachinger, whose film Reversion played at Sundance a few years ago. Reversion was a trippy film about a group of people who lack the ability to travel linearly through time. Trachinger used this basic conceit to explore the idea that if we don’t experience life linearly, we don’t ever see the direct consequences of actions, as an allegory for consequential morality generally.

Reversion had some flaws in the execution (Trachinger just told me she’s recut the film, though, so I am really interested to see it in this new iteration), but it was a really smart concept and Trachinger herself kind of reminds me of a sci-fi Miranda July … very smart and passionate, with a particularly interesting and engaging way of looking at the world.

Here’s the trailer for Trachinger’s film Exposure, which imagines a future world in which teams of government workers are tasked with the job of inoculating the population against disease by exposing people to contagions, and a group of people trying to avoid being exposed.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, now that I know about it, and maybe using some of the lessons with my middle school youth group at the Unitarian Church to kick off some discussions about some of the issues addressed. Pretty cool.

One Response to “Imagining the Future Through Film”

  1. Donkeys says:

    Just shoot him and bury him with a pig.

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“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet