Rainer Kohlberger opens his latest film with the creation of the universe, manifested through Ikedian static pulsing from a cathode ray tube with no discernible output. Fifty years after HAL 9000 was shut down and humanity was resurrected to repeat the same mistakes as before, Kohlberger introduces a glitch to the prophecy in the form of an Artificial Neural Network. ANN’s are the ideal conduit for the automation of art, a self-learning machine that gets exponentially better at the task it’s been assigned yet the fundamental weakness will always reside in whatever human element survives the process. Kohlberger, digital humanist that he is, retrieves this core and sculpts one of the most prescient works of cinema of our generation.
The undersung point of the binary revolution is how digital cinema warps its surroundings. Watching this on Festivalscope hindered my experience, a personal bias through previous experiences with their platform but it helps blur a line that Kohlberger walks across like a tightrope. This is a common theme for him, with his previous film More Than Everything being a reinterpretation of digital flicker in multiple dimensions, rippling outside the frame, changing depending on which angle it’s seen from. These presentations sound suited for art galleries and museums yet the flexibility of the material allows for repeated viewing to stack on top of each other, creating a memory that’s only an approximation of the full work. Coincidentally, this is how Neural Networks work.
After More Than Everything, I couldn’t work out where his career would go as it seems as masterful as the flicker genre would allow. Instead he took this idea that Tony Conrad developed through a pattern of elliptical mistakes in film print and re-contextualises these deliberate patterns as coincidences. This becomes the films major running theme, reducing human nature to a 12500 year long sequence of 0’s and 1’s moving at a speed to resemble a mouth talking in a monotone that pervades this film. This modulation resembles the dying human conscious performing funeral rites for it’s last iteration. A neural network stemming six generations has consumed the entirety of human knowledge and what remains is an elegy for the largest extinction of data in global history.
This is conveyed through patterns. Randomised, but always with a tenant that’s humanly defined. Apparitions sneak through the “random” noise, images of the past bend time and space to exist in the future (Frankenstein appears most prominently, with the conclusion of the singularity resembling Edith Scob’s invisible tears in Eyes Without A Face) and a field of friscillating lights swallow the image whole, spitting out polygons of every colour on the electromagnetic spectrum. This is taking the Jungian framework of the collective unconsciousness to it’s extreme.The brain is a giant neural network and all that’s needed is the correct order of information to go in to produce something spectacular, the only error in this analysis is that none of the philosophers from the 20th century backwards were able to predict Wi-Fi.
And this film is the conclusion of everything. Concerns of film becoming an obsolete medium are trivialised in just 28 minutes. Kohlberger has shined a light forward in ways I have never seen previously or since, and if it isn’t the most consistently breathtaking image sequence in all of cinema (An upper hand I will concede to Jose Antonio Sistiaga’s ...ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren..., for being a work that spans the breadth of human thought over being a coda to it), it’s the most excited I’ve been for the medium of cinema in years. And my only regret, just like More Than Everything, is I have no idea how he’ll ever surpass it.