Thursday, 14 July 2011
"The Immortals" - Documentary by Inka Achté
Not the best documentary I’ve seen pertaining to human cryopreservation, but not the worst either.
The documentary was arty, and definitely trying to make a point, and the point intended is that the subject is full of bittersweet beauty and meandering philosophical reflection, when this is about as true of a cryonics case as it is of CPR.
Scenes are interspersed with shots of gently wafting curtains, drops of water falling, etc. There is a soft, slow, tinkling musical refrain that comes and goes throughout, which while pleasant, suggests that we’re all dying more readily than we are; indeed, one may be forgiven for expecting to see a short text exposé at the end of the documentary, letting the viewer know when each of us died.
Unfortunately little attention to detail, such as spelling more people’s names incorrectly than correctly in the credits, which in and of itself is by-the-by, but I must wonder what else was given little attention.
Editing (so not sure for how much of this Inka was to blame as camera operator / director, and for how much of it the editor, Livia Serpa) left something to be desired in terms of objectivity. As an example, in one scene I am giving a group a tour of Cryonics UK's ambulance. Now, I started the tour with the various critical systems, and finished off with a small few odds and ends (washbasin, first aid kit, gloves for handling dry ice, etc), so deciding to clip down the scene, which part does she choose to show? You guessed it, the latter. So, after showing me ostensibly giving a tour ranging from the washbasin to the gloves, I ask the group if they have any questions before having a look around by themselves; there are not (because I was quite thorough), but the lack of questions makes it look like my talk from the washbasin to the gloves satisfied anything that anybody present might possibly want to know about the systems of the ambulance.
(For the record, what was missed out included the various power systems, refrigeration equipment, oxygen supply plumbing, spare oxygen cylinders, the portable ice bath, deployment mechanisms (ramp, tilt functions, winch, etc), multi-level security system redundancies (the system B to which we switch of system A fails, the system C after that, etc), but this was all skipped in favour of making it look like we're excited about having a sink and a first aid kit.
Interestingly, I am also shown priming the perfusion circuit, and for unstated reasons, she has adjusted the apparent ambient lighting, making what was actually a fairly well-lit clinic room (the same one you've perhaps seen in photos on the CUK website at http://www.cryonics-uk.com ) look like a dark and mysterious place where I am demonstrating arcane equipment to a crowd of hushed onlookers.
Editing; judicious use of certain pieces of film, and juxtaposition of doleful scenes of cloudy skies and dull-looking houses, makes the three main featured interviewees look like impending death is the primary focus of these people, when in many ways quite the opposite is true.
I think it likely that much of this was an issue of confirmation bias; Inka had an idea of how she wanted the finished product to look, and then used every tool in the toolbox to create that image from what was filmed.
Compare and contrast with Murray Ballard's excellently objective photo documentary, all so recently. Other documentary makers have very high standards to reach to achieve what he has, in something that is objective, a real good-and-bad overview, that presents a very real feel of both the parts and the whole of the global "community" of this field, from pensioners in living rooms to medics in shiny hi-tech places, and much of what is in between, while being not only qualifying as art, but also being accurately informative, and an honest representation.
No, I'm not aware of Inka's documentary film being available on the internet at this time. It was produced for a film festival; I merely have the DVD.
Information about Murray's documentary can be found easily enough here: http://www.impressions-gallery.com/events/event.php?id=177 and the exhibition of his work remains open in Bradford for a couple of months yet.