There is a very real danger, now more than ever, of people losing touch with their humanity as a result of certain technological proliferation. What we gain in the form of convenience, we may lose in the form of privacy, and what has allowed us to live in comfort, may in fact be what prohibits us from exploring our full potential. In this sense, technology can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. Craig Jacobson's cyber-dystopia Elliot, dares to examine the horrific results which come as a result of the later.
Elliot is a lonely maintenance worker inside a stark and mysterious power supply complex. His only interactions are with a supervisor named Face who communicates to Elliot via different video monitors and overhead speakers located throughout the facility. Sentries are always keeping a close eye on Elliot to make sure he stays on task. When Elliot does have a rare moment alone, he plugs into his pod and escapes into another world as an idealized version of himself. The more he explores this alternate universe, the more he desires it, and consequentially, the less he trusts his own reality. As his mind deteriorates from the stress of his job combined with his belief that an artificial world may actually exist, Elliot has no choice but to try and uncover the truth behind his identity before he no longer can.
For many of us, this isn't science fiction. Far too often do we discover - usually when it's too late - that we've wasted so much of our lives doing things we actually don't enjoy doing. Typically, these gilded cages turn out to be a result of the aforementioned comfort and convenience brought about by technology. They are fortified by our excuses to remain complacent, and even more so, our fear of change. But sometimes we're lucky enough to gain perspective, perhaps through a glimpse of a life we never knew we wanted, and with that inspirational spark, we're set off on a course we never knew we'd take. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that the conclusion we had hoped for, is the one we're going to reach. There's a line spoken by one of the characters Elliot comes across. A woman that he envisioned as part of his idealized world, someone glowing in spirit, and unmatched in beauty - only, when he finally does meet her face-to-face, she isn't how he dreamed her to be, and the moment, far from ideal. This heart-breaking realization is punctuated further when she says, "Not what you expected? ...you're not what I expected, either". And that's the cold reality of it. Sometimes it is (what you expect), sometimes it isn't; but the only way you'll know, is if you try.
That's how I interpret Elliot.
Now, I could run through the list of possibilities as to what each and every character in the film stands for, but that isn't the point. Every individual viewer will have no problem doing that themselves. "Face", for example, represents - to me - life obligations born of my own career choices, while others may see that same tyrant more literally. Perhaps, "Face" is your boss, a friend, a lover...again, it's up to you to decide that. Ultimately we are going to find a mutual place of complete understanding, in what the journey represents. To that, I'd be remiss not to mention just how incredibly striking that journey actually is.
Craig Jacobson and Cassandra Sechler deliver an audio/visual experience unlike few others I've seen in the genre. It's a commentary on technological oppression, yet it's made to look as if it was shot on VHS tape. There may very well be some cleverly subversive statement in that irony, but I'm unfortunately not smart enough to recognize it; nevertheless, it's appreciated all the same. A huge factor in that, is Elliot's aesthetic. Blending various stylist elements to create a final - grungy - artistic direction that comes across as a mix between Shin'ya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and the trippier parts of Ken Russell's Altered States; technology and flesh, fused together (which adds further power to the narrative that we're so hopelessly entrenched in the former). On paper, it sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does, and it does so extremely well.
Then there's the other half of Elliot's presentation, the audio, which may in fact be my favorite component of the film's production. The sound effects and ambient audio work well enough, but more than that, the soundtrack - put simply, WOW. I'm already a sucker for this kind of experimental electro-pop synth style, but having it combined with the rusty, organic, industrial-esque visuals, really takes its ability to effect on an emotional level, to another level. Craig Jacobson puts a musical package together that's both somber and electrifying; more importantly, it's always appropriate.
Really just great work in total, and when combined together, you have in Elliot a profoundly gut wrenching journey that's deeply affecting. Be prepared to run through the gamut of emotion, and in turn, experience disgust, fear, hope, and crushing despair. You may not find yourself smiling by the end of its runtime, but you will be thankful all the same that you went through it. Films like these are why I fell in love with the medium.