dir: June Schoenbrun
We’re not all really going to the World’s Fair. Only the select few.
The rest of us will be left behind, in our miserable isolation, desperately wanting to connect with someone whilst avoiding all meaningful human contact.
Describing this film will be somewhat difficult, at least for me. I am, as many people are happy to point out, quite old. Despite the fact that I try to have an understanding of contemporary stuff in the zeitgeist, there’s so much of it, and some of it is so ineffable, that it’s sometimes hard to grasp whatever the hell the latest thing the young ‘uns are obsessed with is.
I think this flick is about a subset of a subset of internet users who suck themselves into believing conspiracies that are patently untrue, But believing that stuff, no matter how outlandish, is the only way for them to wrest meaning from the chaos that is their existence.
There are pretty much only two characters / actors in this flick. We watch Casey (Anna Cobb) record videos of herself all throughout the movie. I’m no therapist, but I think it’s safe to say she’s an isolated, disconnected teenager, possibly grieving the death or departure of her mother. We never see her father, but we do see her bolt upstairs to her attic bedroom when he arrives home, or yelling at her from downstairs when she’s watching creepypasta horror videos at 3 in the morning at full volume.
I don’t think we see her go to school, or have a single scene with other humans in it. Her one interaction with another person is a skype call with some jerk who’s obsessed with her.
Before those warning bells start ringing, I don’t think this is a flick about the perils of predators on the internet, and what hazards kids face when their loneliness compels them to open up to strangers. It’s not a cautionary tale in the sense that “this could be your kid right now!!!” being sold into slavery or pursued by rapacious Republican politicians.
It’s more nuanced, in the sense that it’s about quite a depressed teen, who may be acting out, who may be disassociating, but who struggles for meaning, for a reason to go on.
And what does that look like in this present age? It’s a kid posting videos of themselves to an audience of nobodies in order to get a handful of likes or views. We’re not even talking about the people who go to insane lengths for subscribers and the like: they’re performing for fewer people than you’d see at an average bus stop.
So we wonder, how much of this is Casey losing the plot mentally, and how much of it is her choosing to buy into this elaborate (and yet absurdly simplistic) “game” called the World’s Fair, where people pretty much recite an incantation, smear blood on their screen, watch a strobing video, and then watch as parts of their bodies or brains start transforming in some way?