What's Old is New Again

Paranoia surrounding technology isn't a modern invention

It wouldn't entirely make sense to call Dreams Rewired a documentary. On the surface, the new work from directors Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart and Thomas Tode does indeed contain an educational bent, rooted in mankind's incessant desire for new tech and seeming need for constant connectivity. But given the bizarre narration from actress Tilda Swinton, who rarely provides actual historical information throughout the course of the film, it might be more appropriate to think of Dreams as an essay of sorts. Through the use of archival footage, animation, old advertisements and newsreel material, we are presented with the simple hypothesis that, "every age thinks it's the modern age." It's a loaded concept that obviously spans decades and could easily be considered laughable in the day and age of having a pocket device with access to the entirety of human knowledge. As the narrative radiates outwardly, we slowly realize that the fears we experience daily in regards to our privacy and rights—especially in a post-Snowden world—have been applicable to so-called convenient tech achievements since the dawn of modern convenience.

What begins as a tour through the early days of the telephone and its implications on sound and film winds up with the mind-blowing prospect of the almighty computer and ultimately raises that all-important question: What are we willing to trade in order to be connected? We consider the Internet a relatively modern marvel, and our lack of connection is so imbedded in our society that it is considered on par with a purgatorial nonexistence. The idea that information can and should be instantly accessible is hardly new.

By sidestepping traditional means of narration, Dreams' core ideas are easily applied to right here and right now. Concerns that our social and commercial habits are tracked and recorded span back further than we probably care to admit, and the eerie feeling that we are always under the microscope of corporations and shady behind-the-scenes powers is not necessarily limited to the bunk conspiracy theories of the tinfoil hat set, but a very real, very alarming trade-off we make to serve some silly idea that we want—nay, need—to be connected, and conveniently so.

Swinton's narration can err on the goofy side from time to time, and the real information presented is buried under a thick layer of artistic license. It is a complete blast to see the early days of film and television and even a little scary/funny to think that every generation believes it is so much smarter than the last, even when the tech we consider a daily necessity is often anything but. 

Dreams Rewired
The Screen,
88 min.

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