If one word describes TZM, it's woke. This is not the wokeness of identity politics and Black Lives Matter; TZM scoffs at identity politics, viewing it as just another way to divide people. This wokeness is one of understanding that the systems created by an elite few are inherently oppressive toward the masses; that the sooner we recognize our common humanity, with many of the same basic needs, and that infinite consumption is unsustainable, the sooner we will create a world of peace and plenty that works for us all.
Peter Joseph & company have assembled something far from perfect but marvelous nonetheless. I really should watch the whole film again to absorb some details I may have missed; however, for that purpose, I would prefer to watch it in one sitting, which is difficult when one cannot carve out a three-hour block of time and the Zeitgeisters throw a lot of information at you that is hard to digest all at once.
I use the word assembled with a purpose: InterReflections is three movies stitched together into one. That stitchwork feels, well, forced and artificial, reminding me painfully of the final episode of Lost. The viewer can almost forgive this because, as the three movies merge, the dialog alludes to the hokiness and semi-desperation of how it all comes together. As a novelist of a sort, I can attest that endings are the most difficult parts to write unless you begin the writing process from the ending.
So what are the three strands so semi-adeptly woven together?
- The interview segments, in which four scholarly women in the 22nd century look back on how the world was before the Great Transition, during which humankind woke up, recognized that people's basic wants and needs are similar and far more important than their differences, and evolved out of market economics and mass exploitation of both people and planet.
- The lengthy dialog in the mid-21st century between a captive prophet of the Great Transition and a powerful oligarch/technocrat in charge of carrying out the Malthusian Mandate, observed (via surreptitious video link) by a squad of high-tech subversives calling themselves Concordia.
- The segments I think of as vignettes, in which a young woman (referred to as "23") who never speaks passes through some very surreal situations that symbolize various aspects of our sick, sociopathic society and economic systems.
The vignettes move mostly, but not exclusively, in slow motion; the central character, the young woman, frequently plays second fiddle to some intense visual effects. In one scene, she starts to speak but is interrupted by the noisy thoughts of an audience of judgmental assholes scraped up from the worst Comments section nightmare you've ever read.
Throughout all these scenes, the woman's facial expression is one of cautious dread, the kind of dread you might feel as you discover what sorts of murder and torture and destruction your government carries out in your name, or that keeping billions of people impoverished is insanely profitable for the wealthiest 0.01%. She doesn't trust her own senses as she sees the world falling apart (literally at times), so why should she trust anyone else?
Four Scholars, One Voice
My main bone to pick with the interview segments is that the four women all speak like the same person. It's as if they are taking turns reading the words of Peter Joseph, but from a post–Great Transition perspective. The only variation in the speech patterns happens when the scholar with the Turkish name accents the second syllable of economic rather than the third. One thing a writer of fiction must practice in characterization is making the characters use different words and phrases that reflect their backgrounds and inclinations. (It's OK to have one character who talks just like the author.)
The homogeneity detracts from the very important messages they convey about pre-Transition society and economics (er, eCONomics). Zeitgeist has assigned itself the modest mission of transforming society, or at least spreading the news that we as a species can/must Do Better.
Simon and John
The dialog between John (as the revolution) and Simon (as the status quo, constantly sipping on and refilling a glass with scotch on the rocks) is instructive, even dramatic at times. It hammers home the points that (a) the status quo really does care whether you live or die, but it prefers that you die in mass numbers; and (b) the only way to create a livable planet for everyone is to unplug the machinery that supports the status quo and start substituting cooperation for competition.
The scenes switch between Simon and John's conversation at a long table aboard a space vessel and John's diverse crew of Concordian friends watching the proceedings in their underground (underwater?) command center. They seem to be having great fun using their futuristic tech-tools to subvert the dominant paradigm—too much fun, considering one of their most talented comrades is a captive who must either sell out or be killed. But the fun they're having is itself a major point: Changing the world, especially while working as a team, is a helluva rush, especially if you're confident of the outcome. Even if you fail, assuming you survive, you can learn from the failure and keep trying.
As a Whole, Is It Crap?
I wouldn't recommend InterReflections to anyone looking for some light entertainment. Beyond that, it's not the best vehicle for getting one's friends, even those who consider themselves intellectuals, to see the world through the Zeitgeist lens.
However, some people I know might easily find this flick inspiring, even life-changing. Parts of it are excellent, primarily the visual effects and sound design. The green-screen bits are extremely well done, especially the futuristic architecture on...whoops, don't want to spoil it. (Can one actually spoil a documentary?)
The script provides plenty of LOL moments: My favorites are the ones in which the fourth wall abruptly disappears and the actors reveal that they know this is just a movie.
The three-strand approach is a cool idea for conveying the story and appealing to different learning styles: Some people just need to be given the information straight-no-chaser, as in the interviews; the vignettes work for viewers who understand the world via symbols and metaphors; the Simon and John bits, for those who need to examine Zeitgeist's argument (embodied in John) in terms of overcoming the devil's advocate (Simon). For the first group, it probably doesn't hurt that the four scholarly women are physically attractive and have pleasant voices (which are also somewhat homogeneous, and it's sometimes hard to tell which one is talking when the camera pans away from them and the background visuals take over the scene).
The overall message is one that makes sense to me, even though I not as economically literate as I would like to be and must take on faith all the Modern Monetary Theory–esque analysis. I'm sure that others can punch holes in Zeitgeist's entire Weltanschauung (to use another untranslatable German term); Socratic Gadfly would probably say that Mr. Joseph is a sanctimonious twit who just knows how to put big words together and probably votes Libertarian. I'm equally sure that Joseph has defended his thesis on numerous occasions and could patch those holes quickly.
I'm not yet ready to join TZM or even subscribe to its mailing list, but I appreciate and share its vision of the future—and of what we must do to ensure that there is a future.