The scariest thing about Creative Control is that the future it presents could easily be our reality in five years. Dickinson’s cautionary tale about the current technological situation we find ourselves in doesn’t just make the case, but affirms we officially live in a world in which technology has consumed. Technology is officially inescapable and even though we tried with all our might to escape it by becoming a hermit that roams the woods we would inevitably stumble upon some sort of cell-tower quite quickly.
At this point it’s difficult to discern whether Dickinson is using extreme cynicism or clairvoyantly presenting realism. Throughout the movie there’s the concept of whether we live our life in “spirals” or “loops,” most people sticking to the cyclical nature of a loop because it makes things predictable and maintains their guaranteed sense of happiness. Reggie Watts claims people are scared of spirals, they don’t know how to react to the unpredictable and are horrified by the concept of uncertainty. With an ironic title, Dickinson argues we’re afraid of having creative control over our own lives, that we’d much rather stick to our silly patterns. Funny enough, he inverts this way of thinking with the story he presents, the very story of our titular character, David, is one of a man trapped in a torturous loop and when he finally has the epiphany that spiraling out of the loop could lead him towards happiness it’s already too late. Technology keeps us restrained to our circular lifestyle, whereas Jarmusch made the argument in favor of maintaining the beauty of patterned lifestyle in Paterson, Dickinson depicts the tortured state of being our loops are reduced to because of technology. The thing about Paterson in Paterson was that he didn’t even have a phone and was still able to maintain this illusion of non-technological world that has since died, Dickinson’s dreary future doesn’t exist without technology and because of it we’re all whipped into conforming with our torturous loops.
“The city is killing us in small increments” says David’s girlfriend Juliette, a woman who could be as far removed from technology as you could be in that world as she quests for nirvana through yoga. Maybe she’s also caught up in the artificial world of yoga that clashes with this new technological wonderland, but from her Eastern enlightenment she at least realizes how inhumane technology is making us become as it programs us all into patterns and works us to death as if we were disposable robots. Then again her realization is outdated at this point as the life these people are living is now inescapable. Thankfully we’ve got Dickinson tapping into the future to give us a warning about the direction our society is taking and hopefully somebody listens because although we probably won’t notice our humanity will be replaced by a robot-like attitude sooner or later according to Dickinson. Either that or we’ll go insane searching for happiness and love in an artificial landscape that has eradicated both.
I understand Creative Control took the top prize at SXSW, funny enough Ex Machina also premiered there, but to my surprise its hasn’t received the best reception from critics and audiences alike. One may suggest this is because of the film’s hyper-stylization, which seems rather ridiculous because its what allows the film to have a timeless futuristic feel without a big-budget, but I believe it all comes down to Dickinson’s cynical direction. Even the stylization is a result of this, the use of black-and-white creates this bitter contrast which fortifies Dickinson’s agonizing future. Like any great artist, Dickinson forces a reaction out of us, whether that’s one of reluctance, hate, or pessimistic approval, he’s accomplished goal, delivered his message, and made a powerful statement about our inescapable subservience to technology.