There are a lot of films knocking about – The Upcoming covers a great deal of them. But why are they made? What induces the practice of capturing and organising still and moving images in the name of telling a story or highlighting a reality?
This is what Fantastic Machine, a feature-length documentary from Swedish directors Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck, showing as part of the Sundance London, sets out to investigate. The fantastic machine in question is the camera, from its humble beginnings in the first half of the 19th century to its all-encompassing modern-day presence, capturing billions of hours of footage for the eternally expanding mound of film material harboured by the internet, all of it vying for attention.
This is a brilliant documentary. It makes a poised assessment of the practice and purpose of capturing images, and it does so through some fascinating found footage, some iconic, some reflecting less well-known incidents in time. An artist responsible for the capture and editing of the Nuremberg rally footage proudly talks through her work, edited alongside the men whose responsibility it became, upon discovering the horror of Nazi concentration camps, to prove to the world beyond doubt through their films that they had existed. Isis militants laugh as they try to nail a clean take of their propaganda video. A widely spread image of a young girl killed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake is presented alongside a photo of the same body with a row of photographers surrounding her in shot.
The sheer power of filmmaking, whether used for good or ill, is what is explored above all else in this enthralling piece. It’s witty and, though its pacing lags a little as it begins to tackle the modern era and the internet’s effects on the art of filmmaking, Fantastic Machine is, on the whole, a model documentary providing a balanced and fascinating insight into the camera, its possibilities and the responsibilities of those who use it.
Fantastic Machine does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about Sundance London 2023 visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Fantastic Machine here: