Search for a definition of ‘dystopia’ and you will find something along the lines of “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, often caused or accompanied by dehumanisation or environmental disasters”. Looking at the current state of our world, and the heightened coverage that bad news gets, coupled with concerning practices with regards to environmental sustainability and the rise of mobile technology and social media mediums that inhibit real human communication and expression, one could see how a dystopia label could be placed upon the present times. And as one-sided and unfair as that tag would be, once cannot ignore the factors which would make it partly feasible in the first place.
'Dystopia', a short experimental film made by Christian Fischer and Guido Kuhn, explores such a conceptualisation of dystopia, but with a point of reference to the current status quo of our world. There are no Orwellian-style repressive governments, post-apocalyptic societies or an overly-technologized world, but day to day occurrences such as people glued to the screens of their iPhones, passing by one another indifferently in the streets and not noticing anything around them. All people who appear in 'Dystopia' look directly forwards, not even a centimetre to the sides, which is very evoking of what you will see if you pay attention to passers-by on a busy city street in the evening.
There is no plot per se, just a series of elongated slow-motion shots of people passing by on streets. With these elements, the audience can construct their own narrative or sets of narratives: the stretched nature of the scenes allows for plenty of contemplation. Thoughts are steered towards a darker side of imagination by means of a minimalist but haunting soundtrack, which really resonates with the idea of dystopia.
Despite placing one elongated shot after another for 13 minutes straight, 'Dystopia' doesn’t bore you. Each frame will add something to the audience’s train of thought, slightly shift perception or completely change the direction. They don’t constitute pieces of a larger puzzle, plot-wise, and while we might normally criticise such an arbitrary display, in this case it works out beautifully.
There are no words spoken or written in this film, but none are needed to deliver the idea behind it, and to leave each and every individual free to interpret the meanings based on their own experience and outlook on life. Likewise, words won’t do it justice: the best idea is to experience the film by yourself. Despite its problems and niche appeal, 'Dystopia' is bound to elicit at least some though-provoking insights from its core audience.