The film opens with a series of still black and white photos underscored by an eerie soundscape. We see the sky; a single futuristic building perched high atop a mountain, a spaceship. Voiceover narration tells a story – humanity has lost any knowledge of the 20th century due to unnamed world upheavals. Now, the way humans can regain their knowledge of past events is through the ability of a few, those who have a genetic quirk allowing them to peer into the past and relay the events they see. More photos of a woman, one of these special few being taken into a room presumably to begin her recounting session. It is all very Le Jetée, and the sci-fi element is intriguing.
Then, after only this brief intro, the film shifts into moving images, and the telling of the past begins. And that is the rest of the film: 90 minutes worth of scattered images, sometimes random, sometimes literal, unfolding under a narration of facts from points in the history of the 20th century. They are told by alternating voices in seemingly no particular order, without any inflection of emotion or visual images of the narrators.
This is a film based on the book EUROPEANA: A Brief History of the 20th Century by Patrik Ourednik. A book that has garnered a devoted following by arranging itself in just this way – random facts spelled out in no particular order of importance or relevance, no guiding of historical value, no judgment on the events or facts described – with the intention to illuminate the absurdity of historical events and of humans themselves.
The film follows this format closely, which is to its benefit as it is based on the book. It succeeds in throwing light on the absurdity of the human condition. Of how throughout history the belief that life, things, and people would be «better» in the future – more advanced as technology advanced and a person’s day-to-day basic needs were met more easily; enriched by the advancement of art and culture. However, in laying out events that were occurring …
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