When a nation is powerful it tells the world confident stories about the future. The stories can be enchanting or frightening, but they make sense of the world. But when that power begins to ebb, the stories fall apart – and all that is left are fragments which haunt you like half-forgotten dreams. – Adam Curtis ‘It Felt Like a Kiss’
But when those fragments remain (of not only nations but of everything), our minds cultivate a new narrative or a new whole – filling in or disregarding the blanks and even the discrepancies. This is the power, the danger, and the allure exaggerated by video format, and not too far removed from the definition of ignorance [noun – 1. lack of knowledge or education; 2. unawareness of something, often something important]. Good documentaries, films, news stories, etc. will try to lessen the information voids, others will exploit the voids whether through intent [e.g. propaganda] or laziness, but maybe only It Felt Like a Kiss uses those information voids to create art.
One might argue that Adam Curtis’s It Felt Like a Kiss is more of a film than a documentary and feel that to be an important distinction, but I’d argue categorization does little if anything to how the mind interprets what is basically three interlaced parts – the stock footage, the music, and the text – into one case study of suggestibility; a music video of sorts into our culturally steered intuitions. I’d rather argue if this is a criminally overlooked work of genius neglected largely by the same culture it typifies, but still, that’s (mostly) beside the point.
Curtis said, “I wanted to do a film about what it actually felt like to live through that time … Where you could see the roots of the uncertainties we feel today, the things they did out on the dark fringes of the world that they didn’t really notice at the time, which would then come back to haunt us.” … “The politics of our time are deeply embedded in this idea of individualism,” he continues, “which is far wider than Westminster, consumerism or anything like that. It’s how you feel. People think, ‘Oh, if it’s within me it must be true.’ But it’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s not an absolute. It’s a way of feeling and thinking which is a product of a particular time and power. The notion that you only achieve your true self if your desires, your dreams, are satisfied … It’s a political idea. That’s the central dynamic of our life.” [http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2009/jun/20/it-felt-like-a-kiss]
I’m reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – the iconic pyramid chart becomes a different structure altogether when viewed as a political idea, or a product of a particular time and power. The easiest way to see a differential in the chart of needs to other ways of life is to study a collectivist society where the needs of a community are viewed as greater than individuality. In a collectivist society, self-actualization is no longer solidified on top. Meanwhile, self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts) has nothing to do with the comprehensive understanding of the facts or ALL the facets of life, but only the acceptance of the available facts, an understanding of the facets which present themselves… much like how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is developed by Maslow’s subjective experience, and Adam Curtis’s docu-film is a presentation of, as the intro says, “fragments.”
Now, in the internet age, we have access to more fragments than ever. We have more people graduating from universities and being given the opportunity to learn and accept the facts than at any other point in human history – kind of mind boggling, all these learned and shapely people. As this unprecedented time continues, the narrative is pressing in its need to be constructed, noticed, memorized, made certain, and I suspect we have more people certain about the narrative than ever before… but I conclude, we’re more akin to a work of art. We’re a glimpse of these passing times. I think, therefore I think I think.
Update: Since I originally wrote this article, I assembled a YouTube playlist for the music. YouTube – It Felt Like a Kiss: Soundtrack