A new technology explodes into the world. Communication is changed forever - what was once a big planet is now brought together closely, with messages flying back and forth at the speed of light. Entertainment is disrupted entirely, creating all new forms and opening the door for blazing new creative visions, seemingly ending old modes and causing many to fear for their careers. And the social structure is upended as our concepts of gender are upended and as new jobs, heretofore unimagined, take over for old-fashioned physical labor.
The time, of course, is the turn of the 20th century when the telephone, radio and cinema changed everything. Dreams Rewired, a kaleidoscope montage of more than 200 films from a hundred years ago, connects our current hyperconnected world - and the anxiety that comes with it - to the changing post-agrarian landscape of the years leading up to the First World War. It’s a phenomenal cinematic essay that playfully and enthusiastically reminds us that ‘every age thinks it’s the modern age.’
Dreams Rewired isn’t so much a look back at the wacky technology of ye olden days as it is an attempt to contextualize our own world in the long and frantic history of progress that began with the electronic age. We are doing the same dance our great grandparents did, becoming enamored with new tech, imagining futures of leisure and peace, feeling crushed by the madcap speed at which the world now moves and wondering if perhaps the old ways weren’t better. Whether it’s twitter or television, the anxieties stay the same as the technology changes.
Directed by a trio - Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart and Thomas Tode - Dreams Rewired has a sizzling sense of humor, aware of the silliness not only of technophiles of the 1900s but also of technophiles of the 2010s. The narration by Tilda Swinton ties the montage together in a bow that never gets snarky but is often tongue-in-cheek.
The footage is often dazzling, and it is remarkable watching long dead people as they interact with the future - and to recognize ourselves in them. The dreams and hopes of Western Civilization are on full display in Dreams Rewired, dreams and hopes that we still have - and that we still hope electronics can deliver to us.
Second verse, same as the first - and so it is with the technology that disrupts us every day. Dreams Rewired takes intriguing detours into trivia, but it’s not necessarily a history lesson. It’s an essay, playing with form and tone to show us just how we will look to the people of 2115, nostalgic for the old, slow days when social media was the most intrusive example of electronic communication in the world.