The Illusion of Self-Sufficiency

Yet The Illusionist also highlights an important question that Tati never adequately addressed in his films: Is it possible that only part of Hulot's inability to interact with the modern world is the result of external technological influences?

At times, Hulot seems to struggle with the modern world because he wants to. He relishes being seen as awkward and out-of-place because so much less is required of him—an ennui driven in large measure by his inability or disinclination to interact with other humans. Hulot (and Tatischeff after him) is often childish rather than childlike; his simplicity a façade that masks an unbecoming reluctance to interact with others. Recognizing the dangers of modern technology is one thing; asking how one can best overcome those dangers is something else altogether.

Tati never allowed his Hulot to confront that question, but Chomet does.

The answer is profound in its simplicity: the dehumanizing effects of technology are defeated by renewing one's commitment to human interaction. Young Alice, immature though she may be, gives Tatischeff a lens through which to view his own life, where he discovers the need to live through and for others. Technologically-advanced man does not grow increasingly self-sufficient; he grows less so. The notion that technology somehow lessens the need (or the opportunity) for human interaction is simply an excuse to retreat into one's shell.

The Illusionist is more than simply the next artistic step along the Journey of Tati. It is the next moral step, as well. With the aid of Monsieur Hulot, we can identify the tendency of modern technology to isolate us from one another. Armed with that knowledge, we can set about Monsieur Tatischeff's task of deepening and enriching the very relationships that lie at the core of our humanity.

If those human relationships are strong, no amount of technology will drive us apart.

5/26/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Catholic
  • Through a Lens Darkly
  • Film
  • Jacques Tati
  • Media
  • The Illusionist
  • Christianity
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Joseph Susanka
    About Joseph Susanka
    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.
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