VOD Review: Technotise: Edit & I
Technotise: Edit & I is an animated sci-fi movie coming to us from Serbia. While unpacking this film can be quite a task, the effort is well rewarded. History, culture, philosophy and human nature abound in this colorful tale.
Long before I realized that actual science on the big screen is my catnip, I had another lover. Niche animation has always captivated me. From Nausicaa to Wizards, MTV’s Liquid Television to Toonami, if it had a subculture vibe to it, I was hooked. The early 2000’s brought a new way to express indie animation: the internet. Webcomics, Webisodes, Flash animations; it all had the bandwidth to live and breath now.
I also love a good foreign cartoon (and apparently, a bad foreign cartoon). It is fascinating to see another culture through their animation. To see what techniques and stories they absorbed from the never ending supply of American influence, and how they are repackaged and given back to us is incredible. In Technotise we have all of that.
Technotise: Edit & I (2009)
Technotise is a sci-fi story centered around Edit Steffanowicz, a student in 2074 Belgrade. Edit is a psychology major, but can’t pass her exams. Eschewing her friends advice to trade sex for a passing grade, Edit meets with her local drug dealers. Drugs, like much of society in 2074, is blend of digital and analog. These stoners have come across an implant that was meant to fight schizophrenia, but has been modified to help students memorize things more easily. Edit receives the upgrade.
All goes according to plan until Edit begins making progress at her part time job. Edit works for a science lab using her knowledge of psychology to try to reach out to Abel, a brilliant mathematician rendered catatonic by his own research. His research was pretty heady stuff: he had managed to unify all the forces in physics. Doing so had lead him to create a mathematical equivalent to God. The discovery overwhelmed him. While the lab had been able to recreate his graph-God (stay with me here), no one could decipher it. Every computer brought in to crack it had become sentient right before pulling the plug on themselves. When Edit glimpses the graph, her human mind and computer implant come together to create a new lifeform. This sentient program begins building itself inside her, piggybacking on her nervous system. While the new being, Edi, opens up new possibilities for Edit, it’s also taking a toll on her body, and it might very well kill her.
I honestly don’t under stand why we call science fiction science fiction. The science is almost always substandard. From “12 parsecs” to “20,000 Leagues”, the science has been dodgy at best, and normally turns scientific concepts into convenient “magic”. It also belies the point of most science fiction: to tell a moral, philosophical, political, or religious parable. Insane stealth suits and cyborg-ninjutsu is just the futuristic facade to tell a tale of self in Ghost in the Shell. Did you really need a Time Machine to discuss the political and societal quandries that H.G. Wells tackled in the eponymous book? No, but it sure was cool.
Technotise is much the same. Sure we have robot pets and hover-boards and lots and lots of futuristic sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but that’s just window dressing. We have a story of forced maternity (with a solid dose of Christological implications). We have a look at world affairs, using the vantage point of our today being the characters’ history lessons/bad memories. The nature of government in controlling, monitoring, and shepherding people gets a solid commentary. Lastly we have a tale of culture.
Bohemian Like You
Technotise: Edit & I is the movie adaptation of a popular Serbian webcomic created by Aleksa Gajic and Darko Grkinic. While many of the characters return, Edit’s background has been changed to suit the film. Originally she is an art student. In the movie she jokes that she can’t draw to save her life, a wink to this change of profession. What hasn’t changed is the bohemian lifestyle Edit and her friends exist in. They do drugs, hang out in flop houses, and work “McJobs“. They vacillate between heady musings on romance and tawdry talk about sex dolls. I have to hypothesize that a lot of this cultural infusion mirrors the creators’ own lived experience.
This connection elevates the work as a whole. If I had to be honest, much of the science fiction in Technotise is fairly standard. It’s well done, but it doesn’t really break any new ground. It’s the cultural stamp I found so thoroughly appealing. From the homemade soundtrack (some pretty good stuff, especially the techno opening) to the grandfather’s musings on a riot involving a Sc-Fi Slobodan Milosevic, the movie represents its origins in a manner both honest and proud. That the creators were probably very much aware of classics like The Matrix, Blade Runner, and Tron seems to be of little doubt, but the repurposing of “standard” science fiction to tell a uniquely Serbian story was charming.
That Word You Keep Using….
I told you there was some unpacking to do, didn’t I? While the concepts are fairly “normal” by Sci-Fi standards, it is still tackling subjects like nano-machines and the unified theory of, well, everything. And they talk. A lot. I enjoyed the back and forth, it was essential to the feel of the characters and the world. But said conversations are in Serbian, and the subtitles come fast and furious. I’m an old hand at reading a procession of techno-babble in subtitled form (tons and tons of 90’s Anime will do that to ya), but even I had trouble keeping up in a few spots. The animation and voice acting come to the rescue here. You can often get the gist of non technical conversations just from the intonations and body language, and the heady stuff often comes with very helpful background animations. If you see a picture of Eintstein, they are talking relativity, baby.
It didn’t stop this film from being charming. Because it is charming. I was charmed. That seems to be my go to word when explaining why I like something for more than its constituent parts. The animation is good, a mixture of 2-D, 3-D and Vector styles. The music is good. The characters are good (even though most of them are unrepentant assholes). But that was moot. For some reason I knew from the opening credits that I was going to like this film. It’s not revolutionary, but I don’t care. For all the reasons above, and the reasons I can only describe as “charm”, I recommend you give Technotise: Edit & I a look. It’s free for Prime Members at Amazon right now.