Those of you posting about Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, if you haven’t already, check out the five-part McGraw Hill (1972) documentary on the book that starred Orsen Wells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ghzomm15yE. While the narrative did an adequate job summarizing the ideas presented in Toffler’s Future Shock (1970), it did so bringing to the table all the over-the-top elements of production of a cheesy 1970’s kung fu film (or porno). From the soundtrack to the special effects and narrative style of Orsen Wells, this film which very accurately describes the future is ironically very dated for its time.
To begin, the film opens with the filmmaker’s interpretation of present (1970’s) issues facing humanity including car crashes, violence in the streets, etc. while concurrently flashing back and forth between the futuristic image of male and female robot lovers walking hand in hand together through the woods. The scenes that take place in the present borrow from actual footage with their own audio while the futuristic robot shots feature a heavy tone synthesizer score that I suppose in the 70’s was supposed to make the viewer feel futuristic. The sense I got from this opening set of scenes was reminiscent of watching a modern day blockbuster with incredible special effects such as Transformers and then popping in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and being let down by the difference in quality. I know, I shouldn’t be that harsh on the Sinbad movie. It did afterall predate Transformers by 35 years, but I can’t help it! Perhaps I have already become numb by future shock and can’t look past two major differences in special effects quality despite the technological eras in which they were conceived. But I digress, the vibe that the opening scenes of Future Shock invokes in me is akin to watching an old movie with poor special effects by today’s standards.
The next scenes focus on the transience of modern man and the impermanence of community structures. Of course, Wells adds a very dramatic monologue that is laid over top of visuals of buildings being demolished to make room for new buildings and families moving from town to town. While the point is made that buildings are no longer made to last, the filmmakers perhaps took Toffler’s idea a bit too far by trying to make a modular apartment building look like the norm for new apartments during that time. 40 years later, the only such structure I have ever scene of that kind was featured in this film. The narration may also go a bit too far by suggesting that because of the constant mobility across the country, freedom is the loss of sense of belonging for Americans.
The manner in which the narrative is constructed also is reminiscent of a 70’s kung fu film. Like many of the films that were popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, the Future Shock film makes several hard cuts between scenes of heavy action and chaos to scenes of Orsen Wells strolling along like an old master on his own in serene places, creating a peaceful contrast.
The soundtrack culminated itself in the last few scenes. If you close your eyes it would be difficult to determine if you were still watching the Future Shock documentary or instead watching a 1970’s kung fu film like Fist of Fury or Enter the Dragon. Finally, in the closing scenes while Wells narrates the glimmer of hope that is left for our future, the soundtrack becomes more uplifting and lighter similar to the ending scene in which the hero is victorious and is free to return to a life of peace and harmony.