Life in a Day: Maybe a too perfect film about our era?

6. 7. 2011 / Ema Čulík

If you look down at a town from the top of the tallest building, everything looks beautiful. The sun glints in the windows, the people run around like ants. If you are really interested in the town, though, you'll never learn anything from looking at it from above -- you want to get into the mess of it, meet people, see things face to face.

Life in a Day (UK, Kevin MacDonald, 2011) sets out to make a portrait of the whole world on Saturday 24th July 2010. The organisers asked people all over the world to video their lives on this day and put it on YouTube. The only guidelines were a number of simple questions, for example, "What do you love?" "What is in your pocket?" "What do you fear?" MacDonald and producer Ridley Scott together with editor Joe Walker (who definitely deserves mention) then set about going through 4,500 hours of film from 80,000 submissions to make a movie from it.

The film moves chronologically, from midnight to midnight, first showing people's nocturnal activity, early morning anxieties, waking up, brushing teeth, breakfast, etc. The day has a loose structure of children, childbirth, easy work and other play before lunch, then lunch, food, hunting, "what do you love?" and marriage after lunch, pockets, conflict, war, fear, then fearlessness, hope, and finally a conclusion. Every single editing cut is perfectly timed, often humorous and ironic, all of Eistenstein's forms of montage are present, the pace mirrors the emotional movement of the "story".

Of course the heroes of this piece are the people who made the clips. Sometimes their candour took me aback. One mother showing her scars after surgery for cancer. A boy taking syringes from his pocket. A girl skyping with her boyfriend serving in Afghanistan. A young guy admitting to his friend that he fancies her -- and being knocked back. An elderly couple celebrating their 50-year anniversary by renewing their vows. A gay man coming out to his grandmother for the first time. All for everyone to see. This is an example of that Internet phenomenon that people are (perhaps recklessly) open about their lives, broadcasting for all to see, without thinking about who is watching. However, the sincerity, creativity and humour of the contributors cannot be faulted. The quality of the video ranged from point-and-shoot camera to beautifully lit and shot digital pieces. We saw footage from inside the family, under water, on top of mountains, in an army camp, from a skydiver.. All sorts of countries appeared -- from all continents and 190 countries. Probably the most interesting footage was from the African and South American countries.. certainly in a documentary/natural history kind of way. Most characters appeared for no more than a minute, but a couple of people kept returning. My favourite part of the whole film was one Korean man ("It doesnt matter whether I'm from the North or South") who was travelling all over the world on his bike and had already been to over 100 countries. "I've been hit by cars 6 times. Five times surgery. There are a lot of careless drivers out there." He looks at the world with wonder and joy and appreciates every tiniest detail. "There are lots of different kinds of flies. In North Africa the flies are smaller than this. In Australia the flies are also smaller than this. But the flies in India and China and Japan and Korea are a bit bigger, just like this one, so now I feel a bit emotional..."

The other episode which should be mentioned is the crush in the tunnel of the LoveFest in Germany on that day. The festival was shown from the point of view of the attendees themselves, from festival cameramen, from bystanders and from the news. When we see this, which of course we remember (though not the exact date), it nails down the events of the film to an exact moment in real history. Soon we start to think, "What was I doing on this day?" It reminds us that this is not just anywhere or any time, it's our time.

This is a great technological experiment using the modes of our own early 21st-century culture. Nowadays everyone can film their own lives, record and express themselves on video. All the world is connected by Wikipedia and Facebook. In that sense, the film does capture our time perfectly. And, it is funny, it is often very beautiful, it is interesting, it is a little sad. I had wondered beforehand how they were going to structure this film. How could they construct a story with films from people from 127 different countries? How can a film capture the heart without a story? The answer is extremely tight, professional structuring and editing. Tony and Ridley Scott really know how to move an audience and this film is quite absolutely perfect. It does all the right things at the right times. And this perfection ends up clashing with the candour of the contributors themselves. They are so artless and the film so artful, so precisely thought out. At the end, I certainly did feel something, I appreciated the beauty and this film truly shows in full technicolour just how marvellous our really is. But the way that everything was put together in such a perfect way in order to squeeze the maximum sentimentality from each left me feeling dirty, like I'd been manipulated. In this way, too, this film actually encapsulates the spirit of our time. Lots of people all over the world make nice content, but then it's really the big guns who control us all.


Obsah vydání | Sobota 10.12. 2016