57,000 Kilometres Between Us

57,000 Kilometres Between Us


Reviewed by: Adam Micklethwaite

57000 Kilometres Between Us is a film about the impact of digital technology upon communication and social relationships in the 21st century, providing an innovative take on the dangers the internet poses to human relations and the flaws it exposes in human nature.

The postmodern premise for this social commentary is the creation of a documentary-style film (mostly done through the shaky medium of a handheld camera) about a family who spend their time obsessively documenting their own lives for the purposes of a website. In this way first-time writer/director Delphine Kreuter uses the format to expose the differences between the edited, airbrushed version of reality which the family seeks to project through the website and the underlying truths of their existence. The crux of the film lies in the caustic irony of the disparity between the image of happiness and togetherness which the family tries to present in its attempts to gain approval from and communicate with strangers through their website, and the unpleasant reality of a family falling apart because of their inability to communicate with and gain the approval of each other.

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Some of Delphine Kreuter’s social satire really hits home, particularly scenes in which Margot (Florence Thomassin) and her partner Michel (Pascal Bongard) discuss and then implement their increasingly desperate strategies to gain more viewers for the website, as if by doing so they can turn the website’s false image of familial bliss into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nevertheless, I found this film and the underlying truths which it exposed about its characters to be quite uncomfortable viewing. The voyeuristic experience of watching their unpleasant exhibitionism becomes a very alienating experience and as a result it is increasingly difficult to engage with, or indeed care about, any of the characters.

Perhaps the only real exceptions to this are the film’s teenage pairing of Nat and Adrien. 14-year-old Nat (Marie Burgun), daughter of Margot and her partner Michel, rebels completely against her parents and the ludicrous exhibitionism of their website, seeking comfort instead through communication with strangers and the anonymity of the internet. It is in this way she meets fellow disillusioned teenager Adrien (Hadrien Bouvier), who spends his time surfing the web while lying in a hospital bed suffering from a serious illness.

In the film’s most engaging and insightful take on relationships we see the contrast between Adrien’s digital communication with his mother and the bond of isolation, alienation and loneliness he shares with Nat. Pointedly rebuking the limitations of using digital technology as an exclusive means of communication, Kreuter criticises Adrien’s mother for being unable (or unwilling) to go to the hospital to see her son in the flesh. This leads to a poignant moment in which Adrien threatens to sever the link between them completely by switching off the monitor through which she communicates with him.

In contrast, the web offers a haven for the blossoming friendship between Adrien and Nat as they are able to escape the reality of their loneliness and isolation by hiding behind digital avatars of themselves and encountering one another in an alternate version of reality which shelters them from the truths they wish to keep hidden. As the friendship continues Nat is increasingly keen to break down the barriers between them and to cast off the ‘distance’ imposed by the internet. The question posed by Kreuter (and cleverly alluded to in the film’s title) is whether human relationships can truly be built upon such foundations or whether the internet creates an impossible distance whose impact upon friendships is more destructive than creative.

57000 Kilometres Between Us is certainly a clever and telling exposé of the breakdown in real human communication for which the internet is increasingly responsible, but unfortunately I found its means of exposing the alienation and loneliness of its characters to be almost equally alienating to the point that much of it left me feeling distinctly cold.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2008
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57,000 Kilometres Between Us packshot
A teenager struggles for connections - both real and virtual - as her step-father presents an airbrushed version of their lives online.

Director: Delphine Kreuter

Writer: Delphine Kreuter

Starring: Florence Thomassin, Pascal Bongard, Mathieu Amalric, Marie Burgun, Hadrien Bouvier, Stéphanie Michelini, Mohamed Rouabhi, Véra Briole

Year: 2008

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: France

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