Tuesday, October 9, 2007

There Will Come Soft Rains

i dont handle the review thing as well as GFK does, but i saw this first, so i figured id be the one to write something up about it.

apologies ahead of time for the writing...ive been using all-lowercase and no apostrophes for so long in inter-office im and email for so long that i actually take twice as long to write if i stop to put in the right punctuation. my brain doesn't even understand it anymore. i sent out two pages to a buddy on my team the other day, and it took me about 20 minutes to write, but when i got home and started writing an email to my mom (which i always dress up like adult writing) i swear it took me something like an hour to write the same amount. i actually have to stop and think about every word, and then i wind up doing that thing you do when you overthink a word, like, "lamp? lamp? is that really how its spelled? god, that doesn't look right...it's got to be something else...no, wait, spellchecker thinks its ok."

ANYWAY, i ran across "There Will Come Soft Rains" the other day on youtube. the film is a soviet adaptation of a ray bradbury short story, whose title came from this classic anti-war poem by sara teasdale
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
the premise is pretty basic (spoilers ahead!). in the year 2026, automated robots tend to a family, making food, waking them, playing phonograph records and broadcasting beautiful images of the outdoors on telescreens. the gotcha! part is that the family is dead...annihilated by a nuclear war. by 1:54, you see the robots lifting sleep pods up to start the day, only to see the dark figures inside crumble and spill out on the floor...they are piles of ash.

the most chilling moments come after the 6:15 mark. a pure white dove (what could that represent???) appears at an open window. the robots that automate the dead victims' lives asks for a password. since a dove cant, like talk, the robot goes berserk trying to destroy the intruder...it converts its normal seeing/manipulating appendage (which sort of looks like a face) to a big stabby thing. it keeps trying to stab the bird, missing, destroying the inside of the house, stabbing a crucifix, creating more holes in the wall..and eventually blinding itself.

the imagery and atmosphere is very effective. the robot is conditioned to protect, but it does it without thinking or weighing threats it detects...it treats them all like crises and in the end destroys itself for lack of perspective. there is no mercy (stabbed christ), and the uberprotectiveness just weakens the whole more than a lowered guard (putting more holes in the wall). the worst thing is, if you're committed blindly to a program (like fearing everything from outside), youll eventually blind and destroy yourself following it.

the cartoon is really effective and pretty to watch, and sad. too bad it's a modern piece. "There Will Come Soft Rains" was made in 1984, so theres less of the sinister stuff that makes for good soviet propaganda films. its also probably not a rarity since its current enough that there are probably multiple clean copies out there. still, given the good story, it's probably a must-own for a good cold war buff


George F.K. said...

Hat tip, E.C.

I think the critical distinction with this one is that it was made in 1984, about a year before Gorbachev came to power and two years before the infamous incident at Chernobyl. While the video has a powerful anti-nuclear and anti-war message directed at Americans — it is, after all, set in California and about a family named McClellan — it's also pretty strongly aimed at the Soviet home audience. While we credit Gorbachev with loosening restrictions on dissent within Russia, it's also true that early indications of that loosening preceded his tenure and in fact probably contributed to his getting the job in the first place. So you really can't ignore that the video probably had a huge domestic message. As powerful and true as that message might be, I always enjoy those films a little less. I like my Soviet film to have a crazy message meant to warp the minds of THE ENEMY.

L-Scott said...

So E.C., you say you were sending your mom and email? It's funny you mention that, because I just delivered her a package.

(The one in my pants.)

Pretty much agree w/everything all round. G/J everybody.

The 1 thing that sticks out for me though is how frightening the automation is. The people MIGHT have screwed up and led to the nuclear holocaust, but you get the impression that maybe the machines did it, or maybe believing in a machine culture did it. What's interesting about that is that it was the Soviets - not us - who had a cult of machinery. So even though this is set in Caligornia, the scary Culture of Machines that's running out of control without MANKIND to see over it describes Russia better than the US.

I could probably write a whole essay about how you could apply this to SIGINT and Echelon, but that's probably something for another time.

L-Scott said...

Edit - Calgornia should be "California" duh.

Maxwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stir.max.alot said...

that's messed up

i like this style of animation a lot....very fantastic planet..