Black Mirror

 

Every once in a while a work comes along that presents such a dark, unrelentingly cynical view of the world that you want to deny it actually fits some aspects of the world we inhabit. The Black Mirror is the same dark tarn that we’ve gazed long into, until the distorted reflections in the depths begin to influence reality in our society.

Charlie Brooker, the writer of E4’s Dead Set, returns with a suspenseful, satirical three-part mini-series that taps into collective unease about our modern world.

Dead Set was an excellent zombie mini-series, showing what happens to a Big Brother style show during a zombie apocalypse. Some thought it stretched a bit long and had some filler, there is a Fan Edit out there that cuts some of the “unnecessary” bits out to make it a single movie. I personally really like the longer format, because of the extra storyline that is unconventional in a zombie movie. It doesn’t all work but it sets Dead Set apart. Charlie has done an amazing job on this new show, Black Mirror.

Unfortunately the IMDB page is rather sparse, but the show’s own website has much more info, so the episode summaries are from there.

The National Anthem – A twisted parable for the Twitter age, Black Mirror taps into the collective unease about our modern world.

The first episode is a political thriller in which fictional Prime Minister Michael Callow faces a huge and shocking dilemma when Princess Susannah, a much-loved member of the Royal Family, is kidnapped.

Shot in a steady-cam documentary format, we are given a window into the Prime Minister’s office as he deals with an unthinkable ransom demand. The initial scenes of exposition as the Prime Minister is informed of the situation are tense, well paced, and brilliantly written. The actors in this group played it absolutely straight, otherwise it would not have worked nearly as effectively, leaving the humorous aspects of the situation to be explored for the most part by the public’s reactions. The press is represented by a British station attempting to respect the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Royal Family as well as it involves a Princess, watching the whole uncensored story unfold on the internet.

[spoiler title=”National Anthem (Minor)”]
The basic premise works well, the world of established media and government trying to catch the tiger’s tail of internet media with something as outrageous as fucking a pig on live TV. The news woman who is willing to text candid shots of her tits and pussy in order to get a lead, and goes rogue and gets shot by a government strike force is too over the top. It’s like they felt they had to pump her up into a caricature to make her character stand out from the ensemble, and I think the actress could of done a better more understated performance.

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[spoiler title=”National Anthem (Major)”]
The denouement is especially satisfying, with the pig sex scene and the reactions to it playing from shock and nervous laughter through pathos. The final outcome with the increase in the Prime Minister’s fortunes was to be expected. Although I’d expect the fact that the Princess was released before the sex act would become known within a year.

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I do not have a favorite per se, as they definitely stand on their own. That said The National Anthem is an amazing piece of work.


15 Million Merits – The second episode is a satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality.

In this world, everyone is confined to a life of strange physical drudgery.

The only way to escape this life is to enter the ‘Hot Shot’ talent show and pray you can impress the judges.

This episode immerses you into the strangely stark world of television sets and industrial tile, building slowly as it introduces the various rules and restrictions that govern this reality. Watch and wonder at the whys and wherefores, let it flow over you without too much concern on understanding it all at once. By the end some of your questions will be answered, and some are in the category of MST3K “Satellite of Love” science facts. I must come clean and admit my man love for Daniel Kaluuya (playing Bing), who as Tealeaf in Psychoville and Mac in The Fades blew us all away, along with solid roles in FM and Dr Who. He plays understated rather well, a facet of his acting that serves him well during the buildup of this episode and lulls you into thinking you’ve stumbled into an allegorical Russian technological gulag film. Once again, soak it in and let the questions wait.

[spoiler title=”15 Million Merits (Minor)”]
We soon start learning that the annoying ads are for the most important events in this reality, the shows. We also get a chance to observe the odd societal interactions the main character Bing engages in. We see that pornography is both openly advertised and even watched while on the bike, which is a very odd leap to make. Even if the concept is perhaps R rated versions on the bike and the XXX available in your cell, watching sexual material at work is perhaps a distortion of the usual portrayal of aberrant sex in future work camp movies. There is a hint that typical relationships may be possible, but the logistics of the situation in the work dorm living isn’t clear; is it just flings or are there longer lasting relationships, cohabitation in the dorms, etc. Interesting that they did not delve deeper into the interpersonal and sexual relationships in that reality outside of the porn, most films of this particular sub-genre do cover it in more detail.

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[spoiler title=”15 Million Merits (Major)”]
My suspension of disbelief can accept him taking his show on the road so to speak and using his rhetoric for evil, it’s the ultimate logical end of fake counterculture/grassroots campaigns. But what it can’t take is that she is not saved after he makes it big, he sells out for just a deluxe apartment in the sky (movin on up!). The coda is slightly confusing to me on one point, were those real windows looking out or more TV screens? The first time I watched it I didn’t even think about it, I thought they were real windows. The second time something tripped in my brain and I felt they may be screens.

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This episode has a slight edge due to Daniel, however for the most part it is solid on it’s own.


The Entire History of You – Last in the series of Charlie Brooker’s dark dramas.

In the near future, everyone has access to a memory implant that records everything they do, see and hear – a sort of Sky Plus for the brain.

You need never forget a face again… but is that always a good thing?

 

This episode has aired but I don’t have a full review yet.

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