Classic Film Project: Future Shock

I watched a 1972 documentary film last night called Future Shock. Based on a 1970 best seller of the same name by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, it was hosted by Orson Welles being his Orson Welles-iest. Puffing on a cigar, speaking with an air of gravitas, and emphasizing the final two words in the sentence: “And with all our sophistication, we are in fact the victims of our own technological strengths –- we are the victims of shock… a future shock.”

The film also has those absolutely terrible keys that are the hallmark of early 70s documentaries, and some rather comical zoom ins of random people’s faces, which it would then freeze on.

But the points the film made were rather important, and things that we don’t think about enough today. It talked about how radical the transience of our society was, how friends and houses were no longer permanent but way stations on our way to new friends and another house. It talked about the constant decision making we had to do every minute of the day, as we were bombarded with ads, products, and ideas, an attack on our brains that our forefathers didn’t really have to deal with.

Though done with plenty of 70s schmaltz, much of what Welles talked about rang just as true in today’s society as it did in 1972. In fact, in some ways we probably haven’t changed as much as we think we have. “Just as things and places flow through our lives at top speed, so do people. Long term commitments are not expected. Involvements are compressed in time. Young people embrace new values in an atmosphere of intimate intimacy.” Swipe left indeed.

In fact, in watching this, there are some reminders that 1972 wasn’t as long ago as we seem to think it is. There is a scene of a gay marriage, talk of the expansion of artificial organ implants, and discussion about the morality of invitro fertilization (which at that time had only been tried on mice). There were also robots that looked almost as lifelike as the ones we marvel over today, and plenty of talk about computers.

It’s only 42 minutes long, and despite the cheese factor, is well worth a watch. I’ll give it a C+, and a welcome invitation to discuss it at the bar with anyone who gives it a viewing.

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