Sean Dissington || November 1st
Adam Curtis has a habit of bringing us visions that we fear are there.
In HyperNormalisation he presents us with a collage of history, narrative and his explanations of what has happened, drawing our attention to the divergence of the 'known truth' and what he asserts really happened – often illustrating his assertions with media coverage contemporary to the event.
Like much of Curtis' work, it is fascinating, enthralling and deeply unsettling. The role of narrative in modern life cannot be understated – from the refugees who 'take our jobs', the 'weapons of mass destruction' that Bush and Blair saved us from to the mythical £350 million per week that UKIP and Boris Johnson were going to shower us with. Narrative brings us simplicity, it brings us the world in a format that we can comprehend, in bite-sized chunks that make sense to us. Curtis presents us with a view of the world that isn't compatible with our modern narrative of good and evil – and like Alice, once through the looking glass it's impossible to forget what you've been told. Curtis brings us a vision of the world where even the conspiracies are fake and the complexity of the world is such that it is utterly impossible to describe. The world that Curtis tells us about is deeply cynical, is one where power balances are impossibly weighted against the masses, and where ruthlessness and protectionism reign. Terrifyingly, I suspect it's all true.
How do we know what is true? We know what we are told, through news media, opinion pieces, friends and the internet. All this information is served up to us as fact, it requires no thinking or questioning. From the disabled person who is a benefit-cheat to the 16 year old Syrian who looks 29; our opinions are increasingly manufactured, only for us to download them as accepted reality.
In his (just shy) of three hour documentary Curtis takes us on a whirlwind tour, from ‘that time the banks seized New York’ to Donald Trump, the acceptance of the loss of politics in much of everyday life and the resignation of the former protesting classes to the new post-political age. He confronts the movement of the political left to view the world through the lenses of art and increasingly irony as a coping mechanism and he takes us into cyberspace and shows us how a retreat to cyberspace is perhaps the last conquering of our free will as intelligent virtual automaton allow us to bathe in self-made echo chambers.
He tells us about a computer named Aladdin that can predict the future with an accuracy that is frightening, and that increasingly optimism is gone from modern life, shining light on the malleability of truth.
HyperNormalisation isn't an easy programme to watch, it is depressing at times, and leaves you exhausted the first time you get to the end. In spite of this, I urge you to watch it, to immerse yourself in the visuals and sounds that are the hallmark of Curtis’ work and step through the looking glass, take the blue pill and question. Everything.