35
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The Next Hundred Years

An article about film utopias by Miklos Peternak, part of the V2_East meeting on archives and documentation (1996)

Painstaking archivists have condensed the complete film productions of the world onto a series of disks that can be kept in the space of a bookshelf. (Occassionally there are rumours that someone on a remote Melanesian island has an uncut - in other words, undeveloped - film but most people think this is mere hearsay.) The films can be ordered in various, selected units, while the almost impossibly expensive complete corpus (only the bigger advertising agencies and the rich countries in the Afro-Asian community can afford them) is distributed in a numbered series, along with a free gift: a hand-assembled - as the Rolls Royce was once - viewing unit, resembling an old 1970s IBM design.

A "film director" is someone who, possessing a few of these disks, re-uses this material on their bookshelf or their terminal.

The communication sphere (in other words, the world) split in two in 2020: the public and private networks diverged from each other in such a way that while it is possible to make the transition from the public to the private sphere, moving the opposite way is now out of the question. These restrictions, in addition to the obligatory personal user codes, are enforced by a clever signal system similar to traffic signals. The authorities can also radically interfere with any illegal private-to-public pirate activity that they uncover (the so-called information explosion means that in a matter of seconds, information from the public sphere swamps the pirate station so that it becomes inoperable). While the public sphere is enmeshed in complicated legal regulations, the private is ruled by anarchy. People, apart from the small group mentioned below - also fall into two groups: the bigger film directors and the ever-decreasing audience. There is rarely a link between the two.

As practically every imaginable picture is now available using simulated processes assisted by cheap software packages, and can be substituted, supplemented or modified, the fashionable twentieth-century expression "shooting" has been modified in everyday speech: it now refers to retrieving images from the disk. Production companies aware of this are pushing their capacities to the limit and have introduced a new system of image assessment which expands the two-day shoot capacity to a gigantic forty-day shoot capacity - equivalent to approximately a year of television material. After a short (one- or two-second) object text or graphics motif sort, any part of the material is immediately, in real time, ready and modifiable (this means a 4,380 two-hour long films; the more famous directors are already equipped to work at this pace).

Of the most popular software applications, the destiny-matrix and destiny-catalyzer are worth mentioning. In the earlier destiny-matrix program, 256 destiny-patterns were available (256 basic situations, with 256 possible roles, representing a complete life span for each one) in a matrix-type hierachical arrangement, so that the various destinies could be combined with certain of their elements. The destiny-catalyzer, on the basis of selected material ("roles", characteristics, careers), randomly suggests film possibilities - in the case ofeight to ten roles (dependent variable) and however many extras, with whatever backdrop (independent variable), it generally suggests forty-five to fifty ideas. These can be immediately recorded, and if the director decides a particular scene is worth producing, he or she can immediately switch into the legal info-bank network with the help of an aid program and, in a matter of days, retrieve the desired elements. This is a very practical step, even before an outline of the film has been completed, because the cost of such elements changes daily. In fact, it is almost impossible to avoid taking this step if directors want to arrive at a final celluloid product (which of course can only come about with the proper state protocol procedures). The info-bank immediately links up with the original compostion elements in its database, and with the archive or national database which stores the original rights, in order to obtain the desired elements. At the same time, the info-bank arranges a proposed completion date (completion often takes years).

Most of the software writers (destiny constructors) have hundreds of programs (not always compatible) on the market (Destiny Trailer, Magic Destiny, DesTiny for the young etc). The most popular is Microsoft's successor, the Macrohard Doors package (on its cover Aristophanes dances with Greta Garbo in front of Ludwig of Bavaria's castle on the ice of the Nile). Its name derives from the introductory screen, which opens doors into the lives availbale in the virtual castle.

Just as the destiner-catalyzer can automatically put together fifty or more film sketches if the destiny-matrix data is given correctly, the cheaper B and C film directors often do not bother to make more than one film: they simply release several versions of the same thing, arranged in a series or masked in genre categories. For example, a fictional B film about the love between Nijinsky and Mata Hari, created from illegally obtained archive material, can be seen in the "social drama" Kiss of the Cheka, as well as in sci-fi, horor, soft and hard porn, and even animated versions, depending on the atmosphere and the age of the viewer.

Archetypal directorial works are released in "skintight" format, which allows every consumer, with the help of their own recorder, to take part in them. Viewers can participate directly in the three- and four-dimesional scenes. (This is not advisable for weak nerves, especially because of the cuts, although in the more fashionable universities the viewing of these versions are obligatory in the first year.) Here the viewer is part of the film. They can imagine themselves playing a role in any scene. They do not look at the film but look around in it - they experience it. (With the commercial appearance of these devices, the term "empathy" has disappeared from the psychological dictionaries and has been replaced with the expression "act out", which in essence refers to the new mimesis practised by inward-looking personalities. I will return to this later.) This film production form is popular in blind circles, since the time-freeze allows them to virtually feel their way around scenes. (The cure for blindness itself has not yet been found - not everything can be solved - but all things considered, this is not such a handicap.)

In this "world", everybody can be virtually (visually, aurally, and spatially) taken into any situation. The law divides people (both living and once living) into three categories: 1) general, 2) film actor, and 3) outlaw (criminal). The right to visualize other people's lives is regulated in the penal code on the basis of these categories. Only the images of those who fall into the third category can be freely used by anyone (although there are also certain limits), while those in the secondcategory "can only play in an exclusive context in which they have already played", and only with an agent's permission (which is naturally the source of numerous legal debates). The material of those in category 1) can only be used by a small circle with family permission and if this cannot be obtained then not at all. (Legal protection of the individual is extended to the human image, too.) Permission for one-time use can be obtained whatever the case and often at a pretty price - amounting to several times the price of the whole film. Screenings without this permission, even for public performances, are illegal. That is why big agencies often ask for permission months in advance.

Film makers usually choose the fourth option: employing figures produced with simulation techniques (every cheap software program offers a few). The advantage is that the simulated image is capable of really spectacular rapid metamorphoses, from fairy-tale witch to any form desired. The first work using soley this type of image was a popular remake of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and this type then became known as the metamorfoid, as opposed to the android.

The one problem with metamorfoids is that both copyright law and civil law prohibit the "metamorfoid use of motifs resembling any once-existing destiny or person". The developers are often forced to withdraw certain elements or metamorfoids from the software market because a real person intentionally decides to live just that destiny - "new mimesis" is the proper term for this well-known trick - and when decisive elements in that person's life begin to resemble the metamorfoid's, then they demand compensation. Generally it is more economical to put a new program package on the market and withdraw the old one than pay the high costs involved.

For all intents and purposes, acting has become the only form of military service, since the traditional, historical form, with its ranks and long training periods, has become redundant. The already existing acting material is easier and cheaper to use. Military developments naturally have not ceased, indeed they turn increasingly to the fields covered by the biofilm program. The purpose of this research is to program any type of drama directly into living organisms, through the eyes, through sight. On the consumer side, it has been shown that a viewer can watch 178,850 films continuously, on the basis of a fourteen-hour a day viewing day, two-hour films, and aseventy-year viewing career (excluding childhood, when age restrictions apply). Film viewing in this form is not merely the twenty-first-century equivalent of bodybuilding (many people wishing to get into the Guinness Book of Records have registered themselves for the 200,000-film "dream limit"). Film viewing has also become a vital source of subsistence. The radical drop in the normal number of viewers (at the expense of the film makers) has brought into existence a new career structure. The state, and indeed local government, now deals with the viewer as a paid public employee, so that certain poorer families sacrifice one member to this unpleasant work, in order to rely on a permanent income. The danger in this - the new socialists call it "infoslavery" - is that constant viewing is like the strongest of drugs, and those who take this work can never, after long exposure, be cured of it. The post-information society needs this public-service sector, as it gives significant financial aid to the moving picture industry on the basis of viewing figures. Given the number of filmmakers, however, the revenue generated, when broken down for one person, does not even guarantee minimum subsistence. Thus, there is a serious battle to attract viewers; and programs for reliable viewers in good health are reserved years in advance (often using montage materials for productions that are not even ready).

Only directors with complete life-work plans have a chance of winning the tenders - which are essential to the maintenance of the public communication sphere - often adding press reviews and monographs on their oeuvre about films they have not yet made.

Most of the material does not even emerge in final form as it gets used up and disappears in the networks and the interactive personal TV (popular in the private sphere, IPTEL for short). The quantity of transmissions is so great that on general holidays the interference clouds can interrupt the weather, and a central infoblock similar to a smog alert takes place. At these times, everybody can only communicate by traditional means until the end of the alert. (This system is subject to abuse by the big advertising agencies, who have power over the weather office.)

Statistics of information highway accidents is dispiriting. The most frequent cause of life-threatening accidents is the otaku virus (a form of it also appeared in the last decades of the twentieth century): If someone tries to enter a completely disinterested field and gather all the information belonging to it, they can cause a series of infocrashes and provoke so-called info-harakiri on a local level, as well as spread several hundred known incurable viruses.

Even the church cannot avoid highway building: Their satellite, called Man of Light, permanently transmits a rainbow which can be tuned into, either directly or via the networks. Indeed, the scientific societies, which are among the poorest type and whose numbers are rapidly diminishing, also operate a Quack, Quack network. A peculiarity of the latter is that it merely transmits newly received information - it does not store anything or make replies.

Although popular opposition to this all-pervasive system of networks is seemingly very strong, very few people (as the above examples show) are capable of truly remaining outside it. Four such groups can be named: a few deeply religious families; a sect of believers in a natural way of life which denies the image as a natural phenomemon; a very small group, perhaps less than a thousand, of the very rich; and the radical artists. Given that they cannot join the highway even in the slow lane, their remaining outside means that nobody knows about them.

In contrast to the above groups, there are also exhibitionists and families who wear miniature cameras on various parts of their bodies which they keep continually at the ready, armed with permission from the personal TV networks, and at the disposal of the satellites (EXISTEL).

A similar asscociation in the public sphere is the documentary makers society. Its delegates wear cameras on their foreheads - as a third eye - with the aid of a specially made Doc-Hat. Through this device, the cameras are switched on and off in the central documentary office. Approximately five minutes before being switched on, a red light shows and a whistle sounds from the hat, giving anyone who does not want to grant image permission the chance to get away.

The avant-gardists have revived Jean-Luc Godard's dictum - "Every second of a film is twenty-four frames of truth" - and Malevich's black square, and have organized themselves into a cartel. They are only willing to work within a prescribed form: a strictly controlled playback speed (twenty-four black, upended frames per second), with a truth inscribed in every frame. It is no wonder that the anonymous author of a children's film about animals made in the year 2095 put into the mouth of a now-extinct crested newt the sigh: MEHR LUMIERE!

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