THE FUTURE IN FILM, THE FUTURE OF CINEMA
A text by Kenneth Hujer
"THE CINEMA IS AN INVENTION WITHOUT A FUTURE” - – based loosely on Louis Lumière, who invented with cinema with his brother Auguste
Over the course of its history, film has frequently shown itself to have a visionary component. For instance, in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," there are videophones that allow people to speak to and see each other from any location and any time, well before the era of smartphones or virtual assistants such as Siri. Kubrick’s film was released in 1968, a rather long time before the existence of such technology. In 1969, a year later, the Apollo 11 mission marked the first human landing on the moon, an idea visualized much earlier by Fritz Lang in his 1920s science-fiction silent film "Woman in the Moon." At that time, the notion of a moon landing seemed far-fetched and fantastical.
However, it is worth considering whether films like "Star Trek," which depicted automated doors in the late 1970s, or "Star Wars," in which characters played holographic chess around the same time, foresaw future inventions or merely inspired them. Not to be forgotten is Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," in which you could control computers using gestures, cars operated autonomously, and what we now call Virtual Reality was already an existing concept. When the film was released in 2002, these technologies were still far from becoming reality.
A film from 1989, "Back to the Future Part II," clearly exerted influence on the future, albeit with a somewhat consumerist twist. On the date portrayed in the film, October 21, 2015, many companies indeed released products as prophesied. Flying skateboards however, as depicted in the movie, remain an unfulfilled fantasy.
Communication and transportation technologies have evolved rapidly, yet the forms of entertainment and modes of movement remain relatively stable. Video-to-video communication fosters more dialogue and self-tying shoes have become a reality. However, the paths they lead us on continue to follow the same familiar routes. Cinema can serve as a poignant reminder that the dream of flight is not just about reaching the moon but also about the desire for freedom. We can reach the Moon, but are we truly free?
Cinema, however, is not solely concerned with foreshadowing technological advancements. Neal Israel's US comedy "1998 - The Four Billion Dollar Show" from 1979 accurately predicted both the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union and China's subsequent economic ascent. For 125 years, cinema has been dedicated to exploring the future, even though one of its pioneers, Louis Lumière, is sometimes attributed with the words "Le cinéma est une invention sans avenir" (Cinema is an invention without a future). Thus, making incorrect predictions is an integral part of cinematic history. Often, science fiction films err by disguising contemporary fears as predictions of the future. Hence, looking into the future through films simultaneously allows us to examine our present. Perhaps, it takes a broader perspective to focus on the immediate present.
The fact that cinema often yearns for catastrophic events or buries itself in dystopian doomsday scenarios that are either prevented at the eleventh hour or ultimately happen underscores its therapeutic value. Confronting one's own fears, abstractly exploring mortality, can be seen as a form of cinematic behavioural therapy. Thus, cinema also serves as a rehearsal space for the future.
LICHTER Filmfest, in its international film program, brings together around 20 contemporary world cinema positions on the topic of future.
In addition to the future as depicted in the cinema, there is also the future of cinema itself. The directions in which cinema will evolve, the architectural forms it will adopt, what it will contain and how it will be integrated into urban planning are all essential questions.
Through the 2022 publication "Das Andere Kino"(The Other Cinema), LICHTER Filmkultur has gathered diverse essays that contemplate the future of cinema. Since then, several panels at previous conferences have addressed questions concerning the future of cinema, encompassing architectural, programmatic, and socio-political matters. Moreover, a new cinema movement has emerged during the last conference, initiated by various participants who are all advancing forward-looking cinema projects in Germany.
Following discussions about the future of cinema and film, the 4th congress Zukunft Deutscher Film will also delve into European ideas and projects.
And that's not all: The future of film and cinema also involves pondering narrative forms and the materiality of film. Through its "VR Storytelling Award" and "LICHTER Art Award" segments, the LICHTER Film Festival is experimenting with innovative storytelling methods and modes of presenting virtual and augmented reality both on and off the screen.