• The disturbing and the surprising

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    Karen Kunawicz

    Karen Kunawicz

    “There’s a powerful group of people out there that are secretly running the world. I’m talking about the guys, no one knows about, the guys who are invisible. The top one percent of the top one percent. The guys that play God without permission.”

    Those are the opening lines in the pilot episode of Mr. Robot. It debuted locally on iflix last year as a flagship series. I’ve only started watching it now and while people turn to pop culture and TV series as a balm or escape from the real world, this one might not let you “escape” that easy.

    What it does is rein you in and make you face what you suspect in the back of your mind: if you’re on the grid, anyone with sleuthing skills can dig up your secrets, we are not in control—control is just an illusion, we go through the motions of life but we’re all slaves one way or another. Made to sway this way or that by some larger more powerful institutions that can control governments, banks and the entertainment industry which is likely out there to sedate us.

    The lead character, Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek) is a programmer / hacker / cybersecurity engineer—who is on to how the world works. He also has a serious case of social anxiety, and he has some brilliant but grim insights into the world which he shares with his therapist. Again, this gem from the pilot:

    “ . . . it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself is just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our commentary bullshit masquerading as insight. Our social media faking us into intimacy, or is it that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new, we all know why we do this. Not because Hunger Games books makes us happy, but because we want to be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards.”

    Mr. Robot might not be the best thing to watch if you have but a tad of paranoia or if you are not ready to be disturbed. However, it is so well written and executed—that even if you feel uneasy, you continue, to see how things unfold—and perhaps open yourself to growing a bit cynical in the process.

    The Dutch film The Surprise (De Surprise) opened last week. The premise could fit a dark, grim horror film: an heir to a large estate finds a group called Elysium and enters into the contract with them to end his life. Once he signs, there is no turning back. Except, at some point, he does want to turn back.

    This is a comedy romance with a Dutch director (Mike van Diem) and Dutch leads and shot in Belgium, Ireland and Germany. Trust European cinema to bring us something a bit out of the ordinary.

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