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Trailer released for new Adam Curtis film "HyperNormalisation"


#1

Filmmaker Adam Curtis is at it again. His new film, “HyperNormalisation,” will be released via BBC next month. Like his 2014 film “Oh Dear-ism and Non-Linear War,” “HyperNormalisation” looks to confusing political meta-narratives as the filmmaker attempts to account for the increasingly paralyzing political situation we’ve found ourselves in today. Here’s the BBC with a bit more about the film, in partial below and in full here.

HyperNormalisation tells the extraordinary story of how we got to this strange time of great uncertainty and confusion - where those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed - and have no idea what to do. And, where events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control - from Donald Trump to Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, and random bomb attacks. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening - but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

The film shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West - not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us, we accept it as normal.

HyperNormalisation has been made specifically for BBC iPlayer. It tells an epic narrative spanning 40 years, with an extraordinary cast of characters. They include the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, the early performance artists in New York, President Putin, intelligent machines, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers - and the extraordinary untold story of the rise, fall, rise again, and finally the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi.

All these stories are woven together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created. Part of it was done by those in power - politicians, financiers and technological utopians. Rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, they retreated. And instead constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang onto power.

But it wasn’t just those in power. The film shows how this strange world was built by all of us. We all went along with it because the simplicity was reassuring. And that included the left and the radicals who thought they were attacking the system. The film reveals how they too retreated into this make-believe world - which is why their opposition today has no effect, and nothing ever changes.


#2

This is so gloomy and captivating. But it didn’t take too long into watching his movies that I began to think about what feels problematic about his work.

It’s like, after unmasking our ideologies and concepts which we think of as neutral, he creates his own ideology, but at the same time obscures it as something definite or factual.

Being a montage of imagery and researched fact, it must necessarily be interpretive and tendentious (biased). But if you pretend that it’s “the truth”, isn’t that problematic and doesn’t it minimize its effect?

The summary on BBC’s website I hope helps me illustrate what I have in mind. It’s however only for clarification, as I don’t know who wrote it (whether it was the BBC, Curtis or whether it was tailored to what he wants to accompany the film).

Granted the film is introduced as a “story”, that tells “an epic narrative” by “a brilliant storyteller“, there are a lot of instances throughout the text where these characteristics get blurred.

It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening - but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

The film shows that what has happened is that […]

“All these stories are woven together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created. Part of it was done by those in power - politicians, financiers and technological utopians. Rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, they retreated.” […]

We all went along with it because the simplicity was reassuring.“

Besides the fact that it reads like Science Fiction, (which I find is not as remarkable as the fact that at the end it’s just an Ad for “iPlayer”!!), the wording has something so definite, as if Curtis reveals to us the (only) truth, and not politically motivated, tendentious (and important) wake-up calls. … So while I don’t want to confuse the text with Curtis’s work, I question if there’s something very similar going on in the movies themselves.
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In a commentary on (if I remember correctly) a book by Kurt Tucholsky and John Heartfield from 1929 Axel Eggebrecht[1] expressed that naturally their work is tendentious, but compiling a picture book and saying the world is beautiful and claiming that’s the only reality, is tendentious, too.

[1] in: TÖTEBERG, Michael: Heartfield. Rowohlt 1978. (S. 60-70 - „Benütze Foto als Waffe“)


#3

Curtis v the art world
“The art world – they’re always chilly,” he says, “partly because they’re uncertain of what they are saying. They’re more interested in the rigours of their style. I’m interested in using those sorts of techniques for emotional purposes. So there’s a difference there – like that soldier with the bird. I put a really beautiful pop song over it and it made me cry when I watched it, and I thought, ‘Well, if it makes me cry, it will make them cry.’ Art people don’t think like that.”


#4

This took some time to seep through:

As we talk, I find my perceptions of Curtis, as a viewer, are often at odds with how he sees himself. Many observers, including the American documentary maker Errol Morris, regard him as an innovative practitioner of the “essay film“, a genre held in growing regard. Curtis flat out rejects this. “I’m a journalist,” he says. “I tell stories. I don’t like the word essay because what essay implies to me is no story. It’s a posh word for no story. I was trained as a hack. That’s what I am, a journalist, and the one thing I do is tell a story, and in Bitter Lake I tell you a really big story. Essays are, in my brain, much more speculative.” Essays only confirm, he claims somewhat reductively, what readers (or in this case viewers) already know.

His arguments, he insists instead, are supported by the stories he tells. Many admire him because his body of work seems to come from a strong personal point of view, even a political position. But he bats this away, too, though he has on occasion called himself a libertarian. “I don’t have a point of view. I really don’t have a point of view.” When the facts change, he says, he changes his mind. A fixed point of view is like using a map that doesn’t describe the territory. “I challenge anyone to know what my politics are because basically I don’t have any politics. I change my politics like most sensible people do in our present age as the facts change, which is why the BBC allow me to do what I do.” (same source as above, my emphasis.)

Regarding your quote: What he says reminds me of the situations that sometimes occur in an art or exhibition context where a group people regresses into what I’d like to call an “art-school-mode”. I. e. an compulsively analytical and thoroughly discursive mode, where sometimes other approaches would be imaginable, if not doing something even for the fun.


#5