Eye For Film >> Movies >> Eraser Children (2009) Film Review
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
It is the future, 20 years after Misner Corporation confronted the problems of global energy depletion through its new Memory Eradicate technology "which converts brain energy from human memories into raw energy".
Now society consists of brainwashed white-collar workers/consumers, near braindead fascist enforcers, subhuman manual labourers, and a (literally underground) resistance movement. The omnipresence on televised propaganda broadcasts of the Corporation's élite figures – the hectoring, hypermasculine Maximum Blizzard (Jonathan Welsby), the oversexed (and sexually ambiguous) Angelica (Rob Alec) and of course Misner himself (Peter Stratford) – is matched by their conspicuous absence from the tattered remains of the 'real world'.
Desire and fear are the carrot and stick used to manufacture compliance in the workforce: industriousness is rewarded with meaningless promotions, computer upgrades, credits for dreams and the endless promise of better virtual sex, while violations of any of the ever-growing set of arbitrary rules result in demotions, fines or beatings. And to a populace whose very memories have been strip-mined and replaced with productivity-enhancing neural programming, things have never seemed so good.
Named for James Joyce's famous 'waking' protagonist, the drone-like bureacrat Finnegan (Fionn Napier Quinlan) sees his acquiescent contentment disturbed by a series of residual dreams and memories. He is kidnapped (or is it rescued?) by aging freedom fighter Alfred (Shane Nagle), who insists that Finnegan was once himself a resistance leader, and who believes that Finnegan's dreams hold the key to eradicating Misner once and for all.
For his ultra-low-budget debut, Nathan Christoffel has constructed a totalitarian dystopia from the ashes of Nineteen Eighty Four (1984), Brazil (1985), The Matrix (1999) and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), through which he bleakly satirises our mindless surrender to corporatised technocracy, iniquitous class divisions, and the politics of fear – where even the would-be counterculture merely serves to maintain the interests of the status quo.
Eraser Children is pure agitprop cinema, taking advantage of its own necessarily home-made aesthetics to capture the shabby glitchiness of the world that it is evoking. This works well in the furiously edited bombardment of faux ads and newscasts that assaults the viewer's senses in the film's first half. It is a mediated onslaught that proves irritant and arresting in equal measure - as though we too, like Misner's employees, are being bludgeoned into dazed submission, even as we are shown the pervasive mechanics of our own manipulation.
It is a perfect illustration of what Christoffel and his crew can accomplish even with very modest finances – and Wojciech Golczewski's excellent electronic soundtrack helps lend a professional veneer to all the lo-fi sets and on-the-fly camerawork. Where Christoffel comes up short, however, is in the most cost-free aspect of filmmaking, the writing. Repetitive, tin-ear dialogue and nearly non-existent characterisation combine with some very broad performances to make this a place from which you want to escape for all the wrong reasons. Scenes of drug-taking - and the bland hallucinations that ensue - go on for far too long, unwelcomely taking the edge off Christoffel's otherwise sharp vision and making the film's middle section meander indulgently.
At least the final act finds its own grim level - but this remains a film to be admired more for its vast ambitions than for its actual achievements. While Alfred's disillusionment may ultimately be short-lived, viewers will be left struggling to recover from the disappointment of seeing so many grand ideas so poorly realised. Still, perhaps the solidity of the underlying concepts and the juddery amateurishness of their presentation form a disjunction that is in keeping with one of Eraser Children's central premises. After all, some dreams, as the film itself so horrifyingly demonstrates, are better not pursued.Reviewed on: 09 May 2010