Review: It Is Lit
- Viktor Israel Strand explores the darker zones of corporatism with a film low on hope and straddling the border between science fiction and theatre of the absurd
There’s an entire canon of works from the early 18th century which concern themselves with describing the alienating condition of being employed in an advanced capitalistic society. From Kafka to Fantozzi, taking in the acute sociological analyses of Kracauer, the follies of King Vidor and the apartments of Billy Wilder. We could talk about it for hours. All of these works look to explain the devastating effects corporate culture has on the individual’s psyche, making us ever less human (it’s no coincidence that there’s a masterpiece within the genre entitled La Question Humaine). In this instance, in Viktor Israel Strand’s new film It Is Lit, presented in the IFFR’s Bright Future section, the unfortunate individual is Johan (Amund Öhrnell).
Johan has all the attributes of the model employee, intent on maximising the profits of the shady business he works for - and therefore his own, by way of bonuses - and harbouring the crazy idea of one day owning his very own castle. It’s an absurd dream of gargantuan proportions which becomes a parody of the unrealistic targets businesses set themselves at the beginning of each year, as if they were operating in their own little world. In It Is Lit, this world is presented to us in black and white tones, amidst urban wastelands and ridiculous open air meetings which go hand in hand with traditional and inescapable components of corporate culture, such as sexist banter, unfettered competition and incredibly sad toasts in the name of profit. And it’s Strand’s depiction of this seemingly reassuring world which makes it increasingly terrifying as the film progresses. The continual disconnect in the film’s editing, the wholly nonsensical dialogue highlighting the obscure nature of business talk, and the peripheral locations all combine to create a nightmare-esque atmosphere where the viewer has no idea what’s going on. It’s a sadistic game led by a tentacular, invisible power – you don’t see a single office in the movie – which inevitably leads to madness.
In this sense, the experimental nature of It Is lit, exacerbated by a lack of narrative reference points, serves to foreground the alienation suffered by the protagonist. The tension between the traditional elements of office-based comedy and the total freedom of Strand’s language - a result of the film’s independent production – results in an original work, a nigh-on unidentifiable object in the contemporary audiovisual panorama. It’s a film which will leave many viewers in the throes of emptiness and boredom, which are the defining features of any form of bureaucratic employment, as if Strand were administering the very same poison to us, albeit achieving an antidote effect. It’s an unsolicited journey into the remote abysses of neoliberalism which offers us a closer look at its darker side. It Is Lit is like a distorting mirror reflecting the full horror of a life spent chasing the kind of success which will never come, but it’s also an invitation to refuse the status quo, described here for what it is, despite the director’s use of every cinematographic artifice on offer: horror, once again.
It Is Lit is self-produced by artist and filmmaker Viktor Israel Strand, who is also managing sales and distribution for the movie.
(Translated from Italian)
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