It comes to our screens, almost without making noise and after a season in the Movistar + catalog, the film that Andrew Niccol shot in 2018 and which premiered almost all over the world through Netflix (he was part of the fake team ‘ Netflix Original ‘from the platform). This erratic distribution and some misunderstanding by critics It prevented him from getting more at the box office and over the months it has become an almost secret allegorical science-fiction piece and intended for the most coffee growers of the genre.
Niccol took the world of film science fiction by storm in the late 1990s with two impeccable films, now considered modern classics: ‘Gattaca’ and the screenplay for ‘The Truman Show‘, directed by Peter Weir. Time has turned them into essential pieces of the genre thanks to their radically humanist perspective, far from the typical and cynical approaches cyberpunk, and also thanks to distancing himself from the spectacularized vision of the genre that the space opera a la ‘Star Wars’, posing highly recognizable allegories about the direction in which a society enslaved by the abuse of technology is going.
Dehumanized science and soulless spectacle were the two obsessions of these films, and Niccol continued to develop them., in one way or another, in his next films. None of them, although they were not without interest, had the impact of their debut (not even as cult artifacts: and it is that ‘Gattaca’ was greeted in its day for its classic wood, a category that no one disputes today, but it was a box office flop). ‘Simone’ was a satire of the pre-instagram world of fame with visionary details, and ‘In time‘was a more conventional, but suggestive, futuristic action film.
Other than that, Niccol directed the fiction young adult post-‘Hunger Games’The Host‘, and a couple of interesting war-themed movies,’The Lord of the war‘ Y ‘Good Kill‘. None of them were as lucky as his first two works, and perhaps less than any of them the one that concerns us today, ‘Anon’, despite the fact that perhaps it is his most interesting film since that distant end of the century that promised that Niccol would become a renovator of the genre.
‘Anon’: You are what you teach
As ‘Gattaca’ did, ‘Anon’ acquires police film costumes to pose a somewhat soulless future, with an oppressive but subtle regime and where the unhappiness of its inhabitants does not come from repression or abuse, but from something as simple as that the system is completely anti-human. In this case, in the same way that there was talk of an atrocious eugenic policy and a meritocracy taken to the extreme, here we are presented with a near and recognizable future (no flying cars or laser guns) where privacy has disappeared.
With a system whose essence or mechanics is not entered at any time, the personal data of every citizen is accessible to anyone. With a visualization of this data reminiscent of augmented reality, any stranger has their history, their personal data, even their memories in view, which everyone can access. Everything is accessible to everyone, even the gaze of someone who has just died, who has just been recorded and stored. For this reason, the police are puzzled when a series of crimes occur with intermediate vision: the last thing the victim sees and is recorded is the vision of the murderer killing him.
A group led by a dry and traumatized Clive Owen (Niccol always devoted to the codes of classic film noir) discovers that after these assaults on the established order, a hacker (Amanda Seyfried) could be found who has managed to hide her identity and keep her memories aside of others. But It is not the only thing he knows how to do, and the rebel will become a challenge not only for the group of policemen but for him the state of the society.
Or so we suppose, because very cleverly, Niccol keeps the story cooking at a very low intensity. The highest element of this transparency is the police commissioner, who points out that Without the total loss of anonymity, one would live in chaos, because … nobody would know who committed the crimes! But beyond that, we do not know who has made the decision that this society works like this or who ultimately benefits, only that it is absolutely assumed by the citizens.
That is why this gray and passionless world that ‘Anon’ portrays works so well and that we feel chillingly close. A world that by extirpating secrets and lies has lost all humanity: Niccol films the surroundings in an aseptic and silent way, without fanfare because there is nothing to hide. The message of the director and screenwriter is, as always, humanistic, but not necessarily complacent: our ability to break rules, make mistakes, do evil is what makes us people.
‘Anon’ tells this story with a razor-sharp production design, with a cool and robotic interface to display other people’s data that is a real treat to behold, since it exposes the inhuman and devastating essence of what social networks camouflage us with gamification, colors and kindness. And Niccol, who flawlessly visualizes that world of concrete and data, takes a fair amount of narrative risks by intermingling what the characters see, when they see what others see and, of course, how we see them.
Niccol sometimes goes into a voluntary confusion of formats, images, origins and tones to stun the viewer, but it is not clumsiness but a very conscious intention to bury him under what this future society really is: an avalanche of other people’s data of such caliber that the important and the banal are equated and the most important memories we treasure are no longer valuable. A mild dystopia in the form -but very hard in the background- that warns us about the precautions we should take in order not to lose one of the most valuable (although intangible) aspects that we possess.