'Cinema became so high-concept it consumed itself by 2001. What we see on our screens now are echoes and ghosts' Jean Baudrillard,1
The enigmatically named Hypperson has set about turning children's quasi-facts into fictions, and his huge-budgeted creations have almost created a new genre. What if? cinema if you will, although that doesn't satisfy, because all speculative fiction is such a query; Logistics Cinema, perhaps, as suggested, not without spite, by cultural expert and thinker Graheme G.
Before this behemoth, Hypperson had already garnered attention for his expensive debut China World Suicide (2005) which was about a bankrupt Chinese government in the near future trying to organise an attack on the United States. The film is largely made up of discussions between Chinese scientists as they argue about the veracity or otherwise of the statement which every schoolchild knows: 'If everyone in China jumped on the spot at the same time, it would cause a tidal wave big enough to flood America'. Is the hypothesis plausible? The top brass, ludicrously, seem to think so, and enforce training drills to create synchronicity. After a practice strike on Hawaii, China faces diplomatic meltdown and mutual destruction with it's main plan.
Septemdecillion is itself more than an investigation of an unprovable query: Of course, every British child knows the probability (or otherwise) of every person on the planet fitting onto the Isle of Wight (the island off the South Coast of England only 147 square miles of land in size), and Hypperson does not concern himself very much with the theory: He simply begins the film with everybody in the world waking up on the island. No one knows how they got there, and indeed, we never really find out. Instead, the film concentrates on the havoc that would be wreaked in the wake of such an event: The unattended nuclear weapons, the unmanned power stations, the empty parliaments; food and sanitation issues, impossible crushes, splintered communities. The two hours of the film are a hectic scramble, as we watch confused familes looking for one another, concussed rioters fighting, aggressive swimmers diving for the mainland, petulance and preaching, pushing and posturing. In long early scenes, we hear a babble of noise from which only minor details emerge. Amidst the panic and fear, we occasionally see a good samaritan attempt find order, or a veiled prognosis from a professor, or a Doctor administering bandages to crushed children, but the camera leaves, the outcome of these minor incidents lost in the dizzying spectacle of seven billion stories. The camera, whirring around, simply cannot choose a starting point, and is strangled by gasping narratives.
A sequel: Septemdecillion Squared (2009) was ill received by a sceptical public, whose boredom at Hypperson's philosophical musings was evident. The plot this time, was a slight variation: Everyone who has ever lived on Planet Earth wakes up in 2020 on the Isle of Wight. Piles and piles of people, from different eras are there, on that 12.5 by 25 miles of land. The supernatural shock of humanity being confronted with her own refried pasts sends such a jolt through her body that the island becomes an angry bloodbath, with piles and piles of writhing fights. 'I essentially want to keep making the same film, but with slight environmental changes. My films are experiments, and I am a scientist.'2 Universal declared no interest in financing further Hypperson productions after the failure of Septemdecillion Squared, but he has vowed to continue, and is plotting back-to-back sequels in 2011: Septemdecillion: Manhattan and Septemdecillion: Moon recreate the scenario but in the respective locations. 'Moon' will essentially concentrate on the Earth. Says Hypperson: 'If everyone wakes up on the moon, and then dies, what happens on Earth. The image of overgrown shopping malls is an appealing one to me.... I am also a film-maker concerned by the grammar of the medium. When, in a horror film, a girl leaves her shower to investigate a noise, I find myself horribly distracted by the fact that she hasn't turned the water off, which bothers me far more than the inevitable intruder. The Septemdecillion is an attempt to create a horrific situation, and then tidy it up'3
Indeed, the film climaxes with a series of everyday banalities: a shopkeeper finds looters have done just a little damage to his shop. The President finds his red button untouched. Refugees board buses. Ferries run at all hours. A baby is delivered safely. Pockets of reunions take place. Food is passed around. The gradual, fearsome crawl of the everyday dulls even this most supernatural of experiences.
Septemdecillion Directed by Hypperson Produced by Ron Elegant, Hypperson Written by Hypperson, Dane Bowers Universal Pictures Release Date US: June 2007 UK: July 2007 Tagline: What if?
1. Cine Dreams, Fourth Estate, 2007
2. Film Bizz interview, October 2009
3. Film Bizz interview, October 2009