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WARSAW 2017 Free Spirit Competition

LOMO – The Language of Many Others: The cinematic manifestation of a virtual reality

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- Julia Langhof’s feature debut, about the identity of the youngest generations, is a refreshing and formally inventive film that screened at Warsaw

LOMO – The Language of Many Others: The cinematic manifestation of a virtual reality

Karl, the protagonist of Julia Langhof’s LOMO – The Language of Many Others [+see also:
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, which was shown in the Free Spirit Competition at the Warsaw Film Festival, is 17 and seemingly has everything he needs: his parents are affluent, he goes to a good school and has every intention of being successful – which is what his parents, important people themselves, really want for him, too. Karl (played by Jonas Dassler) is handsome, educated and rich – but still, something is not quite right. His attitude to the world, despite – or perhaps precisely because of – his teenage naiveté, seems to find refuge in casual nihilism: on his blog, which has gathered masses of followers from all over the world, he dissects the peculiarities of human behaviour, mercilessly exposing his family and friends to experiments that will prove his points. 

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What Karl’s existential angst is or where it comes from is difficult to pinpoint; while it’s almost impossible to tell what exactly it is that unsettles him, it seems that in her feature debut, German director Langhof is subtly portraying his predicament, if it could be called that, as a symptomatic condition of today’s first-world youth, encompassing both teenagers and young adults. As the traditional societal structures have largely disintegrated, the shaping of identity rests entirely on the shoulders of the individual. While seeming at first glance to be freer, in fact, we are much more readily exposed to forces that regulate our lives in much less obvious ways – while nobody needs to do anything formally, everyone still does it. The movie seems to focus on digital media, with its endless pressures, codes of conduct, demands and, most of all, its controlling gaze, formed through the huge amount of amassed data on its users, but the same logic could easily be applied to any other area of our lives, like work, consumer society or even interpersonal relationships. In LOMO, Karl has the potential to be the 21st-century version – albeit a much milder and a more innocent one – of Bret Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman, the world around him with its constant and pervasive stimuli of all kinds shaping him into a state of emotional numbness, a human being without a sense of empathy or a need for tact. 

In her film, which was produced by Germany’s Lichtblick Film & TV Produktion and cine plus Filmproduktion, Langhof cleverly renders this new experience of a society on a formal, and especially visual, level. The virtual reality permeates the cinematic one: the images of the internet community, the words exchanged and the avatars of the people supposedly existing in various real geographical locations are superimposed, intruding on the images of Karl’s everyday life, his home, his surroundings and the streets he walks. The same goes for the film’s soundscape, in which everyday sounds and the dialogue are confused and sometimes overshadowed by the voices of Karl’s internet followers, speaking in a multitude of languages and dialects, from German to English and others. Undoubtedly, LOMO – The Language of Others is a very different and refreshing film; most of all, it is also a movie conditioned by the experience of the younger generation, which manifests itself in new modes and new ways of cinematic storytelling.

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