With the help of Jane Fonda (narrating), director Luke Gilford (a David Lynch prodigy) has created a disturbing glimpse into a future of technology, loneliness, and a techno-spiritual-cult of connectedness.
The short film has echos of “Her” but features not an average Joe, but a beautiful-but-aging fitness instructor named Jackie (Pamela Anderson). Her teaching is done alone: mediated by technology. Her walks on the beach, out among people, are also mediated by technology.
In the film the only person Jackie speaks with is the young, new cult-of-connectedness member named Luna (Bree Hemingway).
Writers have thus far focused on the commentary about aging and technology and Gilford himself has said:
After having explored issues of self-perception and transformation in some of my photography and film projects, I was ready to create a narrative film which investigated these topics in a deeper, more grounded way. What is the evolution of a performer who has made her mark on the world with her body, something that inevitably depreciates with age? I wanted to ask these questions in the film, and to bring forth a vulnerable performance that blurs the lines between reality and fiction.
Yet there are at least two other angles one could explore. One of those is the draw of fringe religious groups on the disconnected, the “seekers” of the contemporary world. And the other is the expanding reach of a shallow version of mindfulness/meditation practice in mainstream American culture.
Jane Fonda’s voice echoes platitudes that could be found in a number of self-help/Buddhist-y books, such as “the one you are looking for – is you” and “if you remove your doubt and have faith, you’ll be reborn.”
At the spa, Luna tells Jackie that “those breathing exercises are really working for you… you’re stress levels are down… you must be doing the meditations.” Then she goes in for the sell: “Do you have a minute? I really want to invite you to our extended wellness retreat… I have never been more plugged into the universe than I am now.”
At the retreat we see a very bizarre, but all too real, potential future of “mind-link yoga” and a meditation application that gives users a “euphoric jolt if they can maintain a clear mind for an extended period of time.”
Back here in the real world we have long had technological meditation boosters such as Holosync® Meditation Technology, which has been around for over a decade, and the newer Muse™ headband, whose website video eerily resembles the fictional wellness retreat of ‘Connected’.
A problem many of us have with this is the reliance on a –generally profit-driven– technology for personal transformation and well-being. Why can’t Jackie teach spin class in person, or better yet, take people an an actual bike ride? Why can’t she interact with people – connect! – in everyday life? Why can’t she go to a library, find a nice meditation group?
To the extent that this is indicative of real life for so many people, we have a problem. And it’s a problem that nobody seems to adequately addressing if people are continuing to pour millions (or billions?) of dollars into self-help platitudes and magic technologies.
Take my money.
Take my autonomy.
Give me peace.
Is this the mantra of modernity?