After 13. edition

Festival Spotlight
22 July 2013
Festival Spotlight - Visions of Hell

The term Cyberpunk was first coined in the early 1980s and defined a marked shift in science fiction writing. It gained momentum with the publication of William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' in 1984. Although some saw Blade Runner (1982) as the genre's filmic equivalent, another strain of low-budget films began to appear around this time that channelled Cyberpunk's spirit of anarchy and focus on low-rent technology. A programme of these films shows how the sub-genre developed.

A pre-cursor to these decrepit dystopias is R.W. Fassbinder's 1973 drama World on a Wire. Set on a simulacrum of earth, whose inhabitants are unaware that their existence is fabricated, the director chose to create an environment that exists one day in the future, offering a bleak commentary on the increasingly glacial state of human interaction and looking forward to the style of filmmaking to come.

Mad Max (1979) and Videodrome (1983) both deal with the increasing callousness of society. But where George Millar's more conventional tale focuses on a lone cop forced to take the law into his own hands against a group of highway marauders, David Cronenberg's thriller travels into the psyche of an opportunistic media executive who discovers a TV channel with mind-altering capabilities. One of the director's best works, it is an all-too-relevant commentary on today's reality TV culture.

Both these films represent two clear trends in this programme. The deserted future is a feature in two impressive, yet lesser-known Greek and Austrian films. Nikos Nikolaidis' Morning Patrol (1987) and Ursula Puerrer's Flaming Ears (1992) witness a world descending into chaos, whose extreme low budgets give the films a punk aesthetic. In stark contrast, Shozin Fukui's 964 Pinocchio (1991) and Rubber's Lover (1996) are extreme examples of Japanese cyberpunk cinema, easily managing to outdo Cronenberg's opus in terms of visceral excess.

Finally there is Hardware (1991). The Wicker Man of British sci-fi, Richard Stanley's story of a deranged cyborg on the loose in a tower block is one of the finest examples of cinema as an hallucinogenic medium. It takes a familiar post-apocalyptic landscape and turns it on its head as victims are driven to insanity before dying. Our narrator along the way is Iggy Pop, perfectly cast as a shock jock DJ, who reminds us that as grim as the world is, it's the only one we've got.

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