Seeing the title 2040, it is easy to imagine that director Damon Gameau’s picture could be a depressing post-apocalyptic view of the future: leafless trees, dried up rivers and a jarringly handsome man who must contemplate his life on this wasted planet, alone. What he offers us instead is a much more optimistic vision.
The documentary is made with his four-year-old daughter in view. He imagines a time to come in which we commit to living sustainably, and addresses her, telling her what her future could look like if only we decide to stop destroying the planet. It is a romantic premise, in which Gameau is not only a doting father, dedicated to improving his daughter’s future, but simultaneously dedicated to protecting our collective futures, and that of the earth.
Gameau’s investigation is informative, inspirational, even. It is reassuring to see that there are ways in which we can imagine an alternative destination at the end the path we seem to be walking down so decisively; these alternatives are more than welcome. The ways in which the information is communicated is concise and readable, some of the analogies used are useful, whilst others are simply kitsch. This, however, can be somewhat mitigated by the fact that the intention is good, and that the filmmaker is supposed to be addressing a four-year-old.
And yet, adults are watching 2040, and the gap between the imagined audience (his daughter), and the actual audience isn’t quite successfully bridged. The narration seems somewhat overbearing, many sentences end with “darling” or “Velvet” (his daughter’s name). This seems like the attempt to solidify what is an at times confused narrative frame; this can feel forced and artificial, albeit sweet. The music, again has a similar effect. It is busy with strings, and when, after each chapter, Gameau offers an alternative solution, we hear a vocal chorus singing, predictably in ascending major fourths. They are the voices of the future, surely.
The documentary inspires ambivalence. The content is undoubtedly important, and concisely conveyed. The message is also one that bears listening to, it is evident that much effort and research has gone into the film’s making. Gameau’s desire to personalise and reframe the discourse surrounding climate change is understandable, admirable even, but it misses the mark.
2040 does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from 2040 here: