Design Fiction in the Act: Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023)
Excavating and interrogating artifacts found in film.
TGI-Sci-Friday. Let’s go to the movies.
Set in the 2030s where the Vuvv, a benevolent alien species, have asserted dominance over Earth, a young aspiring artist and his girlfriend see an opportunity. They choose to monetize their relationship by broadcasting their dating life, tapping into the Vuvv's curiosity about human connections and love.
I approached this film with limited preconceptions, only aware that it was sci-fi and had an intriguing title. Based on a YA novel of the same name, beneath its surface, the narrative is layered. The alien invasion scenario serves as a metaphor for modern challenges like AI, social media, surveillance capitalism, and the quest for genuine human connection in a digital age. While the film has a playful tone, it offers unexpected depth.
While I found it more compelling than the very average Metacritic rating suggests, I quickly realized it might not appeal to everyone. But for those with an eye for production design in film, this one offers some intriguing visuals, particularly in the first act. This trend of front-loading design fiction details is something I've highlighted in my "Design Fiction in the Act" series.
Let’s Take A Look At What I Found.
The film uses paintings as chapter titles throughout, and from the get-go, it makes short work of establishing this world’s base layer.
Some early evidence comes in a very mundane form, setting the tone for everyday artifacts to come. In this case, nothing on the envelope suggest anything interesting, and I did try to scan the QR codes to no avail. (I really wished they led somewhere)
It doesn’t take long before we start seeing more evidence of the symptoms of this world.
Even though this world is supposed to be an ideal society where everyone is provided for, it’s clear the provisions don’t quite meet the standards that humans are accustomed to. A classic trope, food cubes, makes an appearance and leads to some design fiction artifacts.
One of my favourite things in film production design are written cues. C’mon, Smeat Cubes, Sham & Beans, this is good stuff.
Moving onto some other intriguing finds …