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Galway 2016: Creative Control

This is a guest review from Carol Mulligan kicking off our Galway Film Fleadh 2016 coverage.

creative control


Creative Control is a cautionary tale about what might happen to human relationships if we continue to allow technology into our lives without properly laying down ground rules for how we use it.

Set in the near future in New York, we are introduced to a Baroque-esque society, where it’s all flashy surface, with no sincerity or depth. Our protagonist David, played expertly by writer/director Benjamin Dickinson is an ad campaign man (think Don Draper of the future), deeply embedded in the corporate world, pitching for the business of new hipster tech invention “Augmenta”; which is basically a pair of hipster glasses kitted out with Google Glass through which you can do all the trusty technological tasks (and more!) that you can currently do on a smartphone.

David has it all, it seems, but appreciates none of it. He lives with his stunningly beautiful yoga teacher girlfriend but feels he doesn’t know her. Pity about you, David! Indeed our protagonist struggles to know anything of a world beyond the world of technology, but we have no sympathy for him for this is a line he uses to vaguely hit on Sophie, the girlfriend of a friend of his. He is a purposefully antagonistic character who we are not invited to like.

He plays the part of the perfect boyfriend, giving his girlfriend cab fare for her yoga retreat outside the city, telling her he loves her, whilst all the time, becoming more and more deeply attached to an avatar he is building with his Augmenta glasses, based physically on Sophie but primarily avatar Sophie is the embodiment of David’s perfect, pornographic woman who exists only to please him. This whole idea culminates in a gloriously comical and literal scene where David has avatar Sophie tell him all the things he yearns to hear by patching together words he has recorded real Sophie using in other contexts. Creepy! Creative Control comments on how access to online pornography can impact on real relationships. It explores the impossible expectations that it sets up that lead to arguments that lead to almost total break downs and dissolution of functioning relationships. It is an interesting journey to voyeuristically assess. It pokes fun gently, but at the same time identifies an area where we should have major cause for concern. Kudos!

There is also much social commentary on the impact of living in a Capitalist society. The “nobody can escape” theory is cleverly played out between tech loving David and his increasingly hippie-loving girlfriend. Our hated protagonist, himself very obviously trapped by the spoils of Capitalism, identifies the hypocrisy of his girlfriend (and anyone) who complains about the effects of a capitalist structure but who is only free to do so because she can fall back onto the financial support of her parents and so criticism is revealed to be a luxury for the upper classes who are themselves of course trapped.

Indeed there are lots of little moments that comment on the futility of trying to live outside of the culture of a society and this is part of what makes Creative Control such a clever film. One such moment comes at the very end of the film where David is trapped on his luxury balcony and there is a sheet of glass between himself and his girlfriend both physically and in terms of their ideals. It is to the director’s credit that we at this point (finally!) feel some sort of sympathy for our much hated protagonist. Yes, he’s a jerk, but really, is it his fault or is he just a product of a society that has been taken over by technology. Benjamin Dickinson himself summed it up cohesively in the Q&A when he suggested that the film begs the question “Do we want to live in a society where we live inside a computer all the time?”. If this is what will become of human relationships I for one am ready to join the revolution!

A great start to Galway Film Fleadh 2016!