Krakow Film Festival 2024

What makes human life worth living?

EXTINCTION / A disturbingly accurate farewell to human life on planet earth.

Viera Čákanyová’s sombre experimental documentary, Notes from the Eremocene, takes the lockdowns of the pandemic – the haunting experience of being closed off from normal human interaction in the natural environment – as the baseline for understanding the post-Anthropocene world.

Notes From the Eremocene Viera Čákanyová
Notes From the Eremocene, a film by Viera Čákanyová

Trilogy

The Slovak director’s third film in a trilogy of apocalyptic studies (preceded by FREM and White on White) posits a world where human beings are largely wired up to a digital network of images, sounds and information drawn from our natural environment before climate change, pollution and global heating made it uninhabitable.

Shot on grainy analogue filmstock framed like 1970s polaroids, Notes from the Eremocene is at once futuristic and anachronistic. A lament from the future for the past that takes viewers far beyond the now apparent naivety of the Age of Stupid, the film – first seen at this year’s Berlinale Forum selection – leans heavily on the loneliness and atomisation of the COVID years to create an atmosphere both nostalgic and haunting.

A lament from the future for the past that takes viewers far beyond the now apparent naivety of the Age of Stupid

A world divided

Borrowing themes potently explored in George Pal’s 1960 movie adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Times Machine (the naïve upper earth dwellers, the Eloi and cannibalistic trolls of the underworld, the Morlocks haunt me to this day), Čákanyová posits a world divided between compliant masses plugged into an AI ruled world of G-DAO – Global Decentralised Autonomous Organization – and the adventurous few, willing to accept the chance of early death in the real world, the botomori. The brave new world of images taken from the real world to be viewed in the artificial has more than a hint of paternalistic condescension about it. But the director’s insistence on demonstrating what makes human life worth living – the intensity of the lived experience seen through simple examples of human interaction, the neo-hippy Burning Man Festival, and even bizarre attempts to interpret cryptocurrency as a tool for a more equitable society – creates a kaleidoscope of images and emotions.

It does not always work, and maintaining attention to an essentially freewheeling narrative with little apparent structure is, at times, a struggle. The grainy images and staccato (‘computerise’) narration, floating words and terms, such as ‘wetware’ (meaning water?) sometimes feels wearisome.

Notes From the Eremocene Viera Čákanyová
Notes From the Eremocene, a film by Viera Čákanyová

Age of lonliness

Eeremocene – meaning age of loneliness – was coined over a decade ago by Harvard emeritus professor, Edward O. Wilson, to underline the impact of the loss of natural diversity and species on humanity. Čákanyová effectively creates a nagging sense of ennui throughout her strange film. As a thought-provoking contribution to a time when climate change is so palpably upon us – the heatwave and fires in Europe, the floods in Asia – it deserves attention.

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Nick Holdsworth
Nick Holdsworthhttp://nickholdsworth.net/
Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.

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