Ctrl-Z Futures

I decided to deviate a bit from the otherwise ‘always real events’ description in this blog (this was also a hint from the readers who advised me write more often about books, movies, or even ‘just thoughts’, and not only report about meetings and gatherings of all sorts). Let’s see if we can summon a wider format here .

Yesterday we went to the Prince of Persia. a newly released movie from Mike Newell. I hardly played the original game back in the 1990s, not did I manage to play the new, just released one, so I was pretty innocent about the plot. I assumed there would be some gravity-defying jumping in the movie; this assumption was correct, and jumping there galore.

But little I knew that the key thread of the plot will be related to the ‘future’, the topic ever close to the things we do at Summ()n. I didn’t notice the tagline of the movie, ‘Defy the Future’. I don’t even recall that the posters here have it. All the ‘future’ developments of the plot were, therefore, a complete surprise for me. How to sum it up?

The story is centered around a magical device, a dagger, that is able to ‘send’ its user back in time, thus making him (or her, although the users of the dagger in the movie are all men; that despite the fact that originally it belongs to a woman) capable to change the history. it works as a sort of Ctrl-Z button (Cmd-Z for Mac users). (I wonder, by the way, if this element appeared in the movie because of its game pedigree).

With its default settings the dagger is able to send you back only to a short period of time, but under special conditions this time scope can be increased (which at some point brings the viewer almost back to the beginning of the film’s plot). Bad guys want to posses the dagger for the evil purposes, good guys try to prevent it ‘to save the world’, they eventually succeed, etcetc, the precise details are not so interesting.

What interested me is this very central idea of ‘working with the future’ employed in the film. There is no such thing as ‘forecasting’ or ‘foresighting’ the future. One has to go and experience the ‘future’ to full, when it’s already a present, and do it together with other actors and agencies. But some can ‘undo’ the experience, return to the moment when they can re-experience it, but equipped with the ‘memories of the futures’, which help them to do it ‘better’ this time. The slogan ‘defy the future’ should, of course, be read as ‘defy the others’ in this context.

This time machine reminded me another movie we’ve seen recently, Next with Nicolas Cage. This is not a very recent movie, it’s about three or four years old, but we didn’t see back then. Cage plays a guy able to do the same trick, sending himself back in time (no device used, he IS the device).

Next didn’t have such a picturesque scenery as the Prince, so they had to elaborate on the future playing more. If you have Ctrl-Z option, you tend to use it very often, and indeed, Cage probes multiple futures all the time (in the final scene on the boat this is taken to the max when he literally multiply himself to simultaneously probe different paths). It’s looks beautiful, but not very logical, in the CtrlZ world there is no need for efficiency, since there is no time, at least in a normal sense: time is always re-playable, thus never actually ticking.

My final observation is more of esthetic nature: in both cases the directors use the image of dust, free-floating particles to illustrate this idea of de-constractable and re-playable futures (in case of Next this mostly refers to the last scene, with multiple Cages). I feel also a resonance with the metaphor of Dust as introduced by Philip Pullman in his epic trilogy His Dark Materials (and beautifully reincarnated in The Golden Compass film later). In Pullman’s world the Dust was also a symbol of multiple worlds, although this was not a multiplicity as a constant repetition, but as an infinite number of the parallel worlds.

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