Mechanical Telepathy (2018) review

Introduction

While Mechanical Telepathy, previously know as Visualized hearts, screened two years ago at “the Indie Forum” of the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Igarashi Akiko decided to re-edit her narrative. To celebrate this re-edit, we revisit and re-review her narrative. 

Akiko’s re-edited narrative is selected to be screened at The Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, which is hold in NY(3/7,9) LA(3/14), and in Santa Ana(3/15-17).Review

The story of Mechanical Telepathy takes place in a university in Kobe, where researchers are conducting experiments to try to visualize a human’s kokoro. One day, an accident with one of the experiment leaders, Dr. Soichi happens. When Dr. Masaki is send to give official word of the cancellation, he is unable to inform the team of its cancellation. Besides being interested in the possibilities of the machine itself, vlcsnap-2019-03-06-14h08m03s453.pnghe quickly feels attracted feels to Midori, the wife of the now unconscious professor Soichi.

At the thematic heart of Mechanical Telepathy is the dimension of the image as functioning between love and desire. From the moment this central dimension becomes apparent, the narrative unveils that the machine visualizes the image of someone as captured in someone else’s mental representation. While the narrative explores the function of the imaginary of the subject, Mechanical Telepathy constitutes the implication of this imaginary on the veracity of a connection between subjects. As the mental image of that other person who is desired is not the same as the subject itself, the role of the “deceptive” image in subject-relations is sensibly brought to the fore: who we desire is not the subject as such, but our image of that particular subject. In other words, our subjectivity marks our image of the desirable other. vlcsnap-2019-03-06-14h08m49s113.pngThe narrative furthermore evokes the inherent power of the “deceptive” image to efface the subject as well as how the image we have of another subject is ever supported by our expectations for that subject.

Even though the visualization of the subject’s mind (kokoro) is a visualization of the image of the other – an image supported by the body as such, the narrative, as mentioned above, implies that the visualized image is driven by the desire of a subject. In Dr. Masaki’s case, his visualization constitutes a confrontation with his desire as hidden or repressed. In this way, the narrative subtly evokes the divide that exists between our own kokoro – to be read as our desire – and our ego, our image of who we are or who we want to be in relation to other (Narra-note  1,  Narra-note 2).

And while these ideas concerning the imaginary are sensibly brought to the fore, Igarashi Akiko fails to sew these ideas into an emotional powerful conclusion (Narra-note 3). This failure is partially caused by the very abstract way the conclusion unfolds. vlcsnap-2019-03-06-14h12m47s978.pngWhile the image of the three kokoro’s and three subjects interacting is impressive, this visual highlight is not turned into the narrative highlight is should have been.

While fixed shots are present in the cinematography of Mechanical Telepathy, the cinematography is framed with a great sense of movement, creating some impressive lengthy shots. The fluidity of the cinematography grasps the spectator’s attention and shifts his attention in a natural way. The re-edit introduces differences at the level of the length of certain scenes and a slight different way of composing certain scenes. In the previous edit of this narrative, we noted problems at the level of the sound-design – e.g. sound levels changing between shots. In this new version these problems are still present, vlcsnap-2019-03-06-14h16m16s640but they are reduced to a minimum. This improvement can be attributed to the addition of various sounds in order to bring the experimental machines to life in the narrative space.

Other improvements include the addition of special effects to visualize the visualization of people’s kokoro, different music pieces to support the narrative’s development, and an alteration of the colour scheme – introducing more warmer colours into the framing of the narrative space (Cine-note 1). These various changes do not fail in turning Mechanical Telepathy into a more refined cinematographical end-product. The impersonal character of narrative space is enhanced by the often rational behaviour of each character. The expression of emotion is limited to the failure of the success of the experiments the team conduct. Luckily, there is enough sincerity in these subtle emotional moments.

While Mechanical Telepathy is ambitious considering the complex themes it wants to express, it is ultimately a flawed narrative. The re-edit improves the already fluid cinematography, but it does not solve the problems found at the level of the narrative structure – the abstractness still hinders the framing of a truly satisfying conclusion. Notwithstanding these problems, Igarashi Akiko does prove herself to be a new fresh voice in the Japanese sci-fi genre and a director to watch.

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Notes

Cine-Note 1: While many small changes refine the cinematography as such, one compositional change feel unneeded. This composition concerns the shot-composition of Dr. Midori Mishima and Dr. Soichi entering the experiment room. While in the first version this shot was used as such, this shot is broken by shots framing part of the machine in the re-edit. The breaking of this shot, despite bringing some variety, has no narrative purpose whatsoever.

Cine-Note 1: The lightning has improved as well. As a result, the narrative revels less in darkness than was the case in the first edit.

Narra-note 1: This confrontation is explicitly evokes when Dr. Masaki meets his own visualized desire.

Narra-note 2: While we could make a differentiation between ego and unconscious, it is not so clear-cut in the narrative as such. As such, it might be better to speak as visualization of desire, be it unconscious or recognized by the subject as such.

Narra-note 3: While one can say both Midori and Soichi discard their bodies as to be able to stay as kokoro together, the narrative is not able to make this aspect truly sensible.

 

 

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