Movie of the week: Technotise: Edit and I
Starting today (June 29) at the Labia on Orange in Cape Town, the third Celludroid festival runs until July 5. A close relative of the Horrorfest that has played there for a few years now, Celludroid focuses on science fiction, fantasy and related genres — and not just movies, either. There is, for instance, a section of the festival devoted to graphic novels and comic art in this area.
The fest’s opening movie, Iron Sky, sounds like a blast — Nazis who have been living on the moon since 1945 return to Earth to continue their conquest. But Iron Sky has only one screening, so I took a look at another movie on at the festival, one that’s showing a bit more frequently. It’s called Technotise: Edit and I, and it’s a Serbian anime set in Belgrade in 2074. Actually, it seems to be called simply Edit and I (Edit i Ja), with the Technotise part a reference to the graphic novel on which it is based or of which it is an extension. It is written and co-directed by Aleksa Gajic, who was responsible for the graphic novel.
This Belgrade of 60 years into the future is a fascinating mix of old and new, as dystopias (and utopias) often are. Elegant old buildings are squashed up against hypermodern blocks and spheres; in one research institute, investigations are proceeding into the mysterious area of the interface of consciousness and machinery, yet the public authorities and their ways seem little different from those of the old authoritarian state of communist Yugoslavia.
At the same time, however, and despite the signs of decay alongside the futuristically up-to-date, this world has settled into a future in which electronics are deeply integrated with ordinary life. Tramp robots sit folornly in dark corners, cradling their disarticulated bits, but you can also send your electronic toys (glitchy though they are) on errands to the shops, say.
One of the citizens of Belgrade 2074 is Edit Stefanovic. Her first name makes her sound like a function of some larger computer program, and in some ways she is, or will be. She’s studying for her psychology exams but also has a new job at a big tech company, and spends time with a near-autistic mathematician who has divined something called the “absurd algorithm”. Struggling to pass her exams, Edit decides to get an illegal memory implant to help her to remember all the necessary data, but of course it will turn out to be no mere innocent implant and, besides experiencing some weird mental events (one even features Slobodan Milosevic!), she will find herself caught up in a hectic, life-threatening conspiracy.
Luckily, as shown in an earlier sequence, Edit and her friends are devotees of hover-boarding, which involves much whizzing around on a wheelless skateboard. This will stand her in good stead when it comes to the derring-do of escapes, chases and the like, and the action sequences have all the delirious, whooshing speed of classic anime and movies such as the Matrix trilogy that borrow from it.
The plot of Edit and I doesn’t always make sense, or at least not to someone unschooled in manga and anime conventions. It makes enough sense, though, for one to enjoy the movie. There are halts at certain points, too, at which a character delivers a whole lot of explanation all at once, so we can kind of work out what it all means, if only retrospectively.
The film is beautifully drawn and animated, with delicate use of muted shades and colours. Garish brightness is not over-used, as it sometimes is in anime. At the same time, there are several sequences in which eye-boggling effects are well used. On the level of character, Edit and her somewhat disreputable friends are quirky enough to maintain viewer interest beyond the action, and it’s really good to see characters that don’t fit into the usual American typologies. In more ways than one, Edit and I carries to us a voice from another world.
For more on the fest, with schedules, go to celludroid.net