Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Long Distance (2014): The Illusion of Closeness

Long Distance (2014)
(aka 10.000 km)
dir: Carlos Marques-Marcet

SIFF 2014 Film #22

Maybe you've been in a relationship where one side had to go abroad for a year. Maybe you know somebody who has. Most proponents of temporarily long-term long-distance separations frequently say that with the new technology, it will almost be like living with your significant other. You can Skype across the world for next to nothing, and stay intimate via cyber sex. You can talk on the phone, text, e-mail, send photos,'ll be like living at home!

Carlos Marques-Marcet's cinematic debut closely examines the claims that a relationship will be able to sustain the same intimacy over a long period separation. Sergei is a student who is hoping to become a teacher in Barcelona. Alexandra is a photographer who was chosen for a year-long residency in Los Angeles. We meet Sergei and Alex in an opening 17-minute single shot of a morning in Barcelona, where they discuss having a baby before Alex discovers she was selected for Los Angeles. The camera captures the intimacy and familiarity of the couple as they wake up and perform their routines together, as their harmony is never broken up by the force of the editing.

The remaining 90 minutes is following the couple as they cling to each other, and then start to discover life outside each other until life apart has changed them in ways to the point where communication is more difficult than ever. Sergei and Alex believe that the modern wonders of the world - Phone, Texting, Facebook, Skype - will keep them close to each other, and that their relationship can sustain the long-term absence. Marques-Marcet denotes each subsequent scene with the number of days into the separation they are, constantly making us aware of the toll that time takes, even when technology is presenting the illusion of closeness.

To tie in the message of technology being illusory, Alex's project is all about the presence of technology in life. She begins by taking photos of hidden antennae in plain sight, such as in elephant statues. Later, she moves on to a more obvious comparison when she films car rides through city streets, and places them side by side with Google Maps going through the same path, hammering home the point that technology brings us the illusion of being worldly, but it really is all fake.

Sergei and Alex are but mere ciphers for the audience. Marques-Marcet doesn't put much to their character beyond their history together and their career ambitions. Sergei's big dominant characteristic is that he's a Spanish man who has a little bit of a machismo issue, where he dreams that his career is the most important. Alex is a modern woman striving to live her own life and have her own career. Beyond that, we learn little about these characters, and that's almost the point. Technology has a similar effect on all relationships, when we can leave the screen and be absent at our leisure. When we can edit and re-edit e-mails instead of speaking from the heart.

While Long Distance may be working in broader strokes than a movie about a specific relationship, it's important to realize that it's not really about this specific couple. Marques-Marcet is more interested in how technology affects us, and how it deceives us. If you let it, Long Distance will make you question your own reactions, and you will look at whether their reactions will be similar to your own. Or, maybe you'll have a different response. Maybe you'll be frustrated at one character or the other. But, Long Distance is full of questions and insights that I haven't seen tackled yet. Original, dramatic, and entertaining, Long Distance captures what technology actually represents.

No comments:

Post a Comment