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An Automated Conundrum – OK Computer (IFFR 2021 Review)

3 min read

Still Courtesy – IFFR

David Cuevas takes a look at ‘OK Computer', as part of FilmHounds' ongoing International Film Festival of Rotterdam coverage. 

With the recent commotion regarding newly developed space rockets and urban infrastructure, one would think that the future has already dawned upon our current population. Even amidst a global pandemic, it seems as though the world is taking gargantuan leaps every month in the science sphere; producing new found evidence and innovations to further support a more convenient manner of living. Yet, what ultimately differentiates and reality is that fiction will always be far less deceiving. Even in the most nihilistic of science fiction scenarios, there is still an ounce of hope and prosperity on the horizon. For reality on the other hand, everything is virtually unpredictable. Admittedly, science fiction can also serve as a half-baked reflection of our current anxieties and fears. A fascinating work of high-concept world building, OK Computer is a staggering mini-series with various narrative twists and genre-subverted tropes that aptly contrasts our current political state. 

Utilising the framing device of a murder mystery, OK Computer mixes artificial intelligence with a crime-drama narrative structure. Set in the year 2032, where automated vehicles, virtual reality, robots, and holograms are the norm; the series takes an innovative dark turn in it's world building, by including specific details about its previously established judicial system, historical revelations, and its own version of humanity's prior great downfalls. Even with the disjointed exposition dumps that frequently disrupt the series' pace, OK Computer still manages to engage its viewer into a world that is as equally nihilistic as our current 1st-world society. 

Still Courtesy –

Infused with anti-technology cult groups, religious robot figures, and a death row court case episode bound to incite satire-enthusiasts; OK Computer can also often rely on far too many stylistic disruptions. The series, while undeniably innovative in its creativity and boundless imagination, often finds itself in numerous stylistic identity crises within all of its six episodes. The result is a series that often feels longer than its original four-hour intended binge; where unmotivated revelations and needless additional set-pieces further elongate and agitate the viewer.

Even with the inclusion of some occasional humour and satire in the mix, the end result of OK Computer is frankly underwhelming. With a series this bold and grandiose in scale, it's a shame that a whodunnit this innovative ended up becoming something far less memorable than the sum of its parts. Perhaps this distaste can be linked with the series' familiar resolution; a substandard finale that relies itself on a particular ‘sacrifice'-correlated plot trope that merely takes away all pre-established emotional impact from the show's nihilistic depiction of the future. Even in a series that features various jaw-dropping plot-twists and engaging melodrama, OK Computer is an unfortunately safe and cluttered reflection of our current prejudices, biases, and ethical superiority against the clash of contemporary technology. 

Still Courtesy – IFFR

OK Computer premiered during the second half of this year's historic Rotterdam Film Festival edition, as part of the Bright Future program. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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