All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace is a three part documentary that began on BBC Two this week (Monday nights at 9.00pm), the latest from acclaimed filmmaker Adam Curtis. In this first film, Curtis attempted to explore the relationship between humans and the machines they have built, and how it has shaped everything we see in the world today. From the beliefs and writings about a prototype for a future society by 50s novelist Ayn Rand and her ‘disciples’, to the similar ideals shared by digital entrepreneurs that created ‘Silicon Valley’ in the 1990s, the two stories were woven together in a stylish, entertaining, and easy to understand way, that made this unmissable television in my view.
I’ve not seen any of the previous documentaries from Adam Curtis, but was aware of him and his work (especially The Power Of Nightmares) from mentions and an appearance on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, so I had high hopes for this. It didn’t diappoint at all. However I had never heard of Ayn Rand before, and what I learned here was very fascinating, and a tantalising glimpse into a subject, and personality, I’d like to explore further. It was very interesting to learn that her book, Atlas Shrugged, had been found to be the second most influential book in America behind The Bible according to a study by the Library of Congress. Along with her novel and screenplay for the film The Fountainhead, I plan to check out more of her work very soon.
The second half of the ‘story’ was just as illuminating, showing how the world’s money markets set out to create a new ‘model’ based on Rand’s philosophies that they thought was foolproof, and would go on forever continually adjusting itself to correct flaws if it should fail (which of course it did). How they did this, and the apparent disregard they showed to any naysaying voices (even at the highest office, The White House) was of course worrying, as was the inference of the International Monetary Fund’s real motives in bailing out many of the failing economies in Asia.
Despite the serious subject of the film, the clever use of unusual supporting footage (such as the Clintons), the sometimes jaunty musical soundtrack , and some truly unique moments like the ‘Pong’ experiment, All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace informed the viewer in a clear way, whilst simultaneously firing the mind and imagination. We need more shows like this on television, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait for Adam Curtis again to provide it. If you didn’t catch it this week, I urge you to catch it via other means such as iPlayer, and make an appointment to watch the concluding parts.
Pizzicato Five ‘Baby Love Child’
Nine Inch Nails ‘2 Ghost 1’
Nine Inch Nails ‘Right Where It Belongs’
Kraftwerk ‘ Radioactivity’
Leonard Cohen ‘ Suzanne’
Clint Mansell ‘ Welcome To The Lunar Industries’
Jean Sablon ‘ Le Fiacre’
The Kills ‘Monkey 23’
Available to watch on BBC iPlayer until 13th June 2011 here