One of the first things most of us were taught about in life was the importance of binaries. There is good and evil. Black and white. Male and female. Entertainment and information. Truth and lie. Positioning oneself on one side automatically means rejecting the other, and as we all are well aware of, it’s ultimately being against and not for something that defines human condition, which is in its turn based on the social notion of groups and the need to belong.
But the more we explore both the world around us and ourselves, the more we discover that most things aren’t easily classifiable according to the safe binary formula we were duly presented with throughout our formative years; gender is one big exemple of the impossibility of having extremes without various degrees in between, but we also become increasingly aware of the inevitability of fluctuation and even inversion of concepts, as what we once thought to be “real” and “true” ended up revealing itself to be anything but.
Before I carry on with these apparently masturbatory rhetorics any further, allow me to say this right away: Glossary of Broken Dreams is a very important film. Yes, it is heavy and dense (what else would you expect from an essay on contemporary socio-politics?) but it is also very weird and fun; actually, its formal aspects emerge as the first binary it innately destroys, while also defying the concept of film genre itself: is it a documentary? An animation? An experimental film? A comedy? And more importantly, should you care?
If you’ve seen Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalisation you already have a faint idea of what to expect of Glossary of Broken Dreams; however, the former takes itself much more seriously than the latter — an attribute Glossary blatantly lacks, even if director Johannes Grenzfurthner boldly states that comedy and satire never changed anything: “the emperor wears no clothes, but he’s still the emperor” — recurring to a somewhat historicist perspective in order to try to explain how and why we became such a sick joke of a civilisation.
Curtis’ film also dives further into the role mass psychology and mind control play in the process (you should definitely check his miniseries The Century of the Self if you haven’t done so yet), while Grenzfurthner proposes to discuss a series of concepts and “big words” we seem to deal with every day but whose core meaning we know little to nothing about: capitalism, freedom, media, and the Left are but a few of the terms duly explained through metaphors and paraboles — just like Jesus did! — in a deliciously cynic way.
It is indeed this cynicism and opportunistic Pop culture references that prove why Glossary of Broken Dreams is a film of its time: hypermodernity is well represented by both its form and context, allowing for a very familiar disenchantment to echo throughout — the more the film advances, the more you realise you’re trapped in a loop of needs and wants to which you respond so automatically that you don’t even notice your own sense of combativeness itself is being used by the system you claim to position yourself against as a tool of self-propaganda. And the beat goes on — to quote Sonny and Cher — without you having an effective saying in what becomes of your future or your dreams (be them collective or individual), the only soulagement coming from the consolation prize that is being aware of the self-destruction process — part of it, at least.
This is not a militant movie, although I must confess that the image of a random MAGA supporter who happened to stumble upon it shouting “communist propaganda!” as they salivate from the mouth amuses me; after all, Glossary of Broken Dreams lives up to its title and destroys each and every hope of collective redemption — it even questions the ongoing relevance of the Left, deromanticising the last socio-political myth standing.
As a proper hypermodernist object, it questions everything and offers no solution — besides a vague impractical scorched earth hypothesis — while retaining a few postmodernist tics such as the emphasis in the meaning of things existing between (instead of within) them. Glossary of Broken Dreams would be a proper commedia if it weren’t so tragic — and yet it cleverly plays with both classifications, either juxtaposing or simply interchanging them, thus contributing to the ultimate proof of the non-existence of binaries.
originally published on The 405 on May 21st 2018