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Age of Stupid Film Review

23/03/2010

After seeing The Age of Stupid described as An Inconvenient Truth ‘with personality’ I thought what better way to get the message across to the masses. The facts would be included as well as a more relatable side to the matter. People would be less likely to avoid watching it due to an unwillingness to be bombarded with figures and graphs. On the whole I think this has been done rather successfully, with just a few minor drawbacks.

The film opens with the rather ominous message that everything we see is based on mainstream projections and all the documentary footage from the past and present day is very much real. We are then swept across a wild ocean to an imposing tower standing alone in the sea. The year is 2055. In a post apocolyptic world, this is the ‘global archive’ where valuable artworks and pickled animals are kept along with films, books and scientific reports. It is manned by a lone human (Oscar-Nominated Pete Postlethwaite). He is looking at a futuristic computer in which is stored news reports from the past. Before beginning to show us, he leaves us with the harrowing words – ‘We could have saved ourselves…….We could have saved ourselves’.

News reports from the present day featuring quotes such as ‘the hottest temperatures ever recorded’ lead us to the story of Fernand, an 82 year old guide working at Mt Blanc. He has witnessed huge changes. The glacier on which he takes people on tours has melted drastically over the years. They are having to add more and more ladders to get down to the glacier surface. We are then introduced to Alvin from New Orleans who witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina – ‘America’s worst weather related event up to that point’. He describes the strange feeling of driving his boat through his neighbourhood at tree level helping other stranded people. Ironically we later find out he has been working for an oil company throughout his life and believes the company to be quite good in terms of environmental issues.

A young woman in Nigeria tells us her story of struggle despite the country being rich with oil. The problem being that countries with a valuable resource such as oil, often become poorer due to the money being lost to the corrupt political system. Development then suffers. Meanwhile most people in Nigeria are forced to live on less than $1 per day. Nigeria also suffers with the problem of gas flares. These result as natural gas found with oil is burnt off. It could be used for cooking and heating, but due to the infrastructure being too expensive to build, it is simply burnt off. This produces 70 tonnes of CO2 per year – more than 70 million british homes.

The film keeps bombarding you with interesting information regarding various issues such as the ‘unhealthy’ influence the oil companies have at government level. It is also fascinating how the same PR company that was used to promote the fact smoking was healthy was now being used to promote doubt on climate change. The fact that the richest 1% of the world has 40% of the resources really underlines a major issue in today’s society.

Perhaps the most powerful story running through the film is the attempt to erect a series of wind turbines on a farm in Bedfordshire. A young windfarm developer named Piers battles against local objectors and the local planning authority. It seems people are receptive to the idea of wind power unless it is in their own backyard. Despite the audience supporting Piers, there is the slight nag in the back of your mind that he will benefit financially from the proposed windfarm development. Perhaps a character with purely environmental concerns would have been that slight bit more emotive. However, that being a minor quibble, Piers receives threats over the phone and recalls an incident where he was handed a picture of a man being shot. Despite his best efforts, the proposal is denied by 10 votes to 1. Cut to the jubilant reaction of the objectors outside. They obviously see it as a great victory. A woman is then asked whether she is not worried about climate change. Her response is, in my opinion, the defining moment of the film. She is flustered and obviously thinking inwardly that she is making herself look selfish. Yet it’s her selfish side that has influenced the decision. Not wanting to ‘spoil the view’ has won out. Very cleverly, the film then cuts to a story of floods in Bedford. This squirming individual reflects most peoples attitudes on the issue. People want something to be done, but not enough to want to do it themselves. Hopefully watching this film will change that.

The final few minutes involve potential news headlines counting up to the year 2055. Floods, fires and drouts feature heavily. It is a scary vision for the future. Pete Postlethwaite brings the film to a conclusion stating ‘We are not the first lifeform to wipe ourselves out – but we are the first to do it knowingly’. A haunting finale to a very bold, informative and powerful film. 4 Stars.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 17/04/2010 5:33 pm

    Might this time be known as ‘Age of Stupid’ or ‘Age of Greed’: ecocide, crime against international peace?!

    Strong video from Polly Higgens, British lawyer and activist:

    As people of faith, what does our collective abuse of the planet, Creation, say about our love for God and God’s gifts? Or for the true love we have for those outside ourselves?

    In peace, Rianne

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