Bettina Barillas 14 January 2018

In a mirror, darkly

Films

Three films of opposites: connection and disconnection, real and fake, beauty and ugliness, ancient and future. In these films, mirrors of glass and of simile function as portals to other worlds—magical surfaces which hold the soul of our collective modern Narcissus captive.

Sight

For fans of Netflix’s Dark Mirror, Sight will feel like home—familiar, eerie, and leaving you screaming WTF! at your monitor. The short film uses some beautiful animation to create a world where one’s entire surroundings and interactions are augmented through a literal (contact) lens. The director jumps frequently back and forth between this personalized, augmented world to a much more mundane physical surroundings to great effect (Bonus points for the Fruit Ninja references!).

We see how ingrained this new technology is as we follow the main character on a date. An installed dating app prompts him at every turn, using aggregated data to generate perfect responses to illicit the young woman’s interest.

The film powerfully illustrates the power that we, as individual users of technology, have and alludes to the impact that these virtual solutions to common problems can have on real people in the real world. Of course, technology is amoral, but in the hands of imperfect and flawed humans, we can choose to use it for good or for evil.

Interface

In a world where no one has seen a face, a young man deals with the gaping hole left by his ex-girlfriend, who sought a different way to live. He leaves to look for this promised land, but slowly loses his grip on reality (or does he?) along the way. In this trippy film, the borders between the real and the virtual are erased and the character must make a decision of how to proceed: carrying on as normal or attempting to find a world of deep connection.

The parallels for our world run deep. Although we don’t live in a world where every human head is encased by a reflective helmet, we in fact choose our blinders. With our heads buried into our mobile phones, the effect is the same—a world distracted by the ephemeral. Like the young man in the film, we are starting to realize what we have lost. But, the question remains: how far will you go to find these rumored places where people live without an interface and where lovers can still look straight into each other’s eyes?

The Lanthanide Series

Using an engaging combination of personal narrative essay, abstract visuals, and exploratory soundscapes, The Lanthanide Series is a challenging yet thought-provoking watch. The film ponders how technology has shaped the way we see the world, how we record the present, and how we replay the past. The film’s makers frame each chapter within one of the fifteen rare earth minerals, offering fascinating parallels with the natural world.

The film is a long one, and demands your full attention—which perhaps could be the rare earth mineral of our time. In a world of soundbites and 30-second click bait videos, it’s series such as this one that teach us the importance of slowing down and help us to draw connections between science, art, politics, and poetry.  

About the author

Bettina is a communications consultant, whose work supports social change initiatives in health and clean energy in southern Africa and Latin America. Her work has seen her teaching photography courses to youth in villages across Botswana, writing content for high ranking officials working in HIV/AIDS programming, and building business case studies for clean energy investments across southern Africa. She is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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