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1984 (2023)

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Joined: 14 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2023 2:47 am    Post subject: 1984 (2023) Reply with quote


I stumbled into this Finnish/Russian film by accident. Shot in Moscow, it's really a one-woman show, as director Diana Ringo wore many hats to get it made. Her "by" credits are for producing, screenplay, music, cinematography (shared), and editing. Plus, she even acts in the film as the female lead.

It’s a microscopically budgeted affair with a minuscule cast and very few sets, with very low production values. It uses contemporary objects and clothing in a world where they shouldn’t exist: such as an iMac keyboard and Nike shorts where no effort was made to dress them up or hide the trademark swoosh. The tiny cast renders the city setting weirdly empty... as if Ringo couldn’t get a half dozen people to walk through the occasional shot to suggest a larger world than that inhabited by the speaking roles.

Ringo’s story goes outside Orwell’s classic text to include elements from a novel that preceded and informed it: Yevgny Zamyatin's We (first published in 1924). Orwell himself read a French translation of it in 1944 and published a review of it in 1946, three years before the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four (aka 1984). Ringo’s film also references Jack London’s 1908 political science fiction novel, The Iron Heel. The film’s story is not so much 1984 as a hybrid of it and We. For instance, Big Brother, Newspeak, the diary, and Room 101 are from the former, while the character names, the Ancient House and the Green Wall, are from the latter but shuffle together fairly seamlessly.

All of this is very interesting and intriguing, but there’s one helluva barrier to entry: the film is technically very clunky. The cinematography is laden with Film School 101 errors, notably constantly “crossing the line,” mismatched eyelines, inconsistent lighting, obvious jump cuts due to continuity errors, inconsistent sound quality, and so forth. The presentation is frequently on the level of a fanfilm… and not a high-end one.

Effort was made to give the film some scope by use of VFX, but the problem with them is not so much that they are so obvious, but that their style and application are so inconsistent that they prove distracting. I could accept juxtaposing the reality of live action with dreamlike VFX images if there were a narrative point, such as contrasting the squalor of the characters’ realties against the gleaming fantastic cityscapes that is what Big Brother says the “United State” is, both sharply different to the natural world beyond the “Green Wall.” But there’s not a clear delineation between these spaces, and much of the CGI employed is at odds with the live-action elements matted into them. In fact, a lot of it smacks of MidJourney or Dal-E image generation, as well as those AI tools that will generate five seconds of animation for free. The result is a lack of visual coherence, as if the film is a collage. This may have been budget-friendly for such a no-frills production, but it frequently knocked me out of the story.

The film’s key strength is the performance of Aleksandr Obmanov as Mathematician D-503. His is a largely nuanced performance, often conveying emotion without words. He does occasionally go over the top, but only in hallucinatory sequences. The remainder of the small cast perform their roles with varying levels of success. Sadly, director Ringo’s portrayal of Art Department member I-330 falls flat. She exhibits zero chemistry with the lead and frequently appears distracted as if wondering if the camera is still running. I’ll cut her some slack because she wore so many hats, but a dedicated actor was needed.

The film is at its most effective in the torture of thought crime-committing E-202 (Vladimir Ivaniy) at the hands of an Inner Party Official (Sergey Khrustalev). This chillingly effective and claustrophobic scene sticks to dramatic basics and actually lands. The film would have been more powerful had it focused on intense character moments of this sort and only suggested the bigger, repressive state rather than the unsuccessful overreach attempted with all the wonky visual effects and their inconsistent and distracting aesthetics.

In summary, I liked the ideas here. I simply don’t agree with many of the choices made.

Here’s the trailer.

Turn on the subtitles if you want to understand anything.
* * *
"The absence of limitations is the enemy of art."
― Orson Welles

Last edited by Maurice on Tue Jan 02, 2024 4:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bud Brewster
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Joined: 14 Dec 2013
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Location: North Carolina

PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2024 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Maurice, thanks for the well-written analysis of this rare and interesting film. The trailer is remarkable, and well worth seeing.

In fact, I order all members of All Sci-Fi to view it . . . or you'll be arrested. Evil or Very Mad

Big Brewster is watching . . .

Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
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