Police Mortality from anti banality on Vimeo.
POLICE MORTALITY Trailer from anti banality on Vimeo.
Lovely May: A Scene From POLICE MORTALITY from anti banality on Vimeo.
STATE OF EMERGENCE Trailer from anti banality on Vimeo.
UNCLEAR HOLOCAUST Trailer from anti banality on Vimeo.
Unclear Holocaust from anti banality on Vimeo.
This Is New York City: A Scene From UNCLEAR HOLOCAUST from anti banality on Vimeo.
Let’s Apocalypse! A Discussion with the Anti-Banality Union
What do the violent obliteration of New York City and the self-destruction of the police have in common? According to the Anti-Banality Union, these are two key motifs in “Hollywood’s dream diary,” the cache of our society’s secret wishes to destroy the present order and bring a new world into being.
The ABU edits countless Hollywood popcorn films together, forming orgies of death and destruction at the hands of our society’s hopeless antagonisms. Drawing clips from such box office hits as Independence Day, The Dark Knight, and The Siege, they reveal the violence and chaos lurking just below the surface of the present order.
Their first film was Unclear Holocaust, a devious medley of over 50 disaster movies, in which New York is destroyed over and over again by its own hopeless contradictions:
This week I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of their new film Police Mortality, the cop film to end all cop films—literally.
After the screening I caught up with the filmmakers to chat about their projects, the insane world they’ve diagnosed, and the new one they strive to bring into being.
The ABU is an “anonymous three-headed hydra,” so their voices have accordingly been collectivized for this interview.
VICE: So you make movies that are like… a bunch of a different movies… edited together… to make a new movie. That’s crazy! Tell me a little about the process that goes into this.
Anti-Banality Union: Initially we wanted to pursue two formal experiments: one, to see whether a film could be made for absolutely no money, and two, to understand whether or not Hollywood could be mobilized towards revolutionary ends, that is, against itself.
Narratively, we registered how disaster movies are basically structured the same way: a quotidian existence is interrupted by an anomaly manufactured by different apparatuses, whether scientific, military, administrative, pedagogical, or civilian, which are then turned into real objects of crisis and catastrophe and deployed as political stratagems by a governmental apparatus. Unclear Holocaust is, in this way, a literalization of neoliberalism.
Can you elaborate on that?
Meaning: the constant production and reproduction of minor, manageable crises that can be used as catalysts for ever more capitalization on certain populations and resources, as well as the popular habituation to a permanent state of exception. These practices, which became clear after 9/11 and, on a smaller scale, after Sandy, have been the paradigm since the 1970s.
The hopeful lilt toward the end of Unclear Holocaust is that this catastrophe will become unmanageable, and this increasingly destructive strategy may spin out of control and destroy the world as we know it.
The same in Police Mortality: you have this increasing consolidation and universalization of “police” as a practice and as a group, that at the moment of its total realization, just when they’ve deputized everyone who wasn’t already a cop, and overcome themselves in this class struggle within the police force, they accidentally release all prisoners, and the police and the system it buttresses implode, committing mass suicide.
Both films are very much retrospectives of the last ten, 20, 30 years—broad surveys of long processes of governance, made into a narrative and condensed. In Police Mortality and Unclear Holocaust, we have very literal depictions of OWS, 9/11, and the killings of various unarmed black men in the city, among other occurrences. But it’s also meant to be future oriented. That is, the logical conclusion of all these contradictions, events, and violences is hopefully the complete eradication of such structures.
A simple way of viewing your work is that you reappropriate these films into something that they weren’t initially supposed to be. I think it’s more interesting that they are, as you’ve said, a “reading of Hollywood’s dream diary,” so that you’re not actually creating something that didn’t exist, you are instead drawing out something that is latent within the films.
We would argue that Hollywood has more or less completely occupied the collective unconscious and determined roughly the coordinates of the social imaginary. This is extremely clear in the prefiguration of events in movies like The Siege, where prior to 9/11, you see a more or less accurate prediction of the incarceration and vilification of the Muslim population of the US, as well as events like the OWS Brooklyn Bridge protest.
Whether this is an aspect of plagiarism between reality, documentary, and fiction, is not so much at issue here. Anthropologist Didier Fassin describes how French cops model themselves after characters in the TV show The Shield. In this way, Hollywood becomes more prescriptive than it is descriptive.
To this effect, I’m interested that the two themes of these films—the destruction of New York by every possible means and the absolute carnage unleashed by the police being turned on the police itself—are so firmly lodged in the American unconscious.
We think that there’s a kernel of liberation in all of these Hollywood narratives, and the destruction of New York, and the police destroying themselves from within, are both maybe sublimated forms of revolution, or maybe ideas of revolution that insinuate themselves into Hollywood in these masked forms. So the idea that the world ends, whether it’s the world as a geological planetary reality, or the world as a social order, as in the police no longer being able to withstand its own contradictions, are both forms of wanting to see this world, or its present organization, end in some way.
Essentially, we think that all the machines, all the apparatuses we are dealing with here are essentially thanatos-driven suicide machines, self-hating, self-perpetuating, extremely powerful systems, that at their core must surround themselves and fill themselves with death. And at the end of this intense accumulation, there can be nothing but toppling under their weight and their implosion.
Can you please clarify this notion of thanatos?
We’re using it loosely but also in an orthodox Freudian way. In that sense, eros, the fundamental life force, is blocked by the reality principle, by civilization, and all of these different repressive patterns force us to sublimate our eros, and forces it to rebound back in on itself, turning it into thanatos—still a libidinal investment, and a very pleasurable thing, but an investment toward death, self-hatred, and self-destruction.
And this isn’t limited to the police.
Absolutely not. This is a society-wide affliction, which we’re sure everyone can sympathize with. It is also excruciatingly obvious in Hollywood. Thanatos is just a heightened state within the police, because they have a particularly obvious means of exercising it, with their weapons.
Recently we had the well-publicized case of Christopher Dorner, who became a hero to many people of various political stripes. I’m interested in your take on this romanticism of Dorner by so many.
On the one hand, his manifesto is incredibly militant, but it is essentially militantly reformist. It’s about purging the sort of “racist” or “Nazi” aspect of the LAPD, in order to instate “justice” and “true order” and the like. We would argue, however, that despite their reformist appearance, these goals are totally incompatible with the continuing existence of the police, and in order to achieve such contradictory aims, he would essentially have to wipe out the entirety of police. His brief killing spree revealed that instead of the common notion of the police maintaining an equilibrium, or order, within society, in fact what it needs to function is a total dissymmetry of force, a total monopoly on all violence. An imperative was issued by an opinion piece in the New York Times not long ago entitled “Don’t Mythologize Christopher Dorner”
They say “don’t mythologize Christopher Dorner,” but if you read his manifesto, it’s just an amalgamation of all these different Hollywood clichés. The way this man understood himself was a direct product of Hollywood. We could say that Hollywood mythologized Christopher Dorner before he was even born!
Not to mention the biographical films already in development. Initially we said we were going to add him last minute into Police Mortality, and then realized he was this intrusive figure, precisely because every character in the film was acting out his struggle. It’s redundant. Magnum Force is Christopher Dorner, Bruce Willis is Christopher Dorner, Robocop is Christopher Dorner. So this literal adaptation, retroactively, would have been an intrusive addition, because it was already there, fully formed.
How has the film been received so far?
The prescriptive idea for its reception, that we introduced it with at the premiere, is that it will hopefully become a documentary by this time next year. And while that seems more unlikely than ever, considering the strengthening of police ideology and the police state, we’re at an extremely critical threshold that contains this potential.
In Unclear Holocaust you have a fabulous juxtaposition of all these clips of idyllic New York, just before the disaster announces itself. But it seems like in the present, we don’t have that anymore. It’s almost like the “idyllic New York” would be a catastrophic New York. How do you understand the fact that we live in this period in which crisis, whether ecological or political, is more or less the norm?
The present stage of “apocalyptic capitalism” is basically predicated on this continuing crisis, key in Neoliberal strategy, where even a very minor seasonal snowstorm becomes an ostensibly devastating event. The fact is, we’re becoming daily more accustomed to this apocalyptic mindset, and if we take hold of or appropriate this way of thinking, and urge it further, it can result in something extremely revolutionary. The idea of revolution as apocalypse is pretty concisely reflected in a slogan we heard not long ago: let’s apocalypse.
Your method raises the question of agency in analyzing politics or film. The impetus for most who analyze film or politics is to find the human agent. So in a film, you’re looking for the vision of the auteur. What is Bergman trying to tell me about finitude? Likewise in politics, there’s this comforting fiction that the United States government took down the World Trade Center and controls all events in the world. Personally I find much more accurate (never mind interesting) the idea that we live in a disordered world governed by vague laws like that of capital accumulation. What are your thoughts on this oppressive need to decipher agency in the world?
That there’s not necessarily a doer behind the deed, and when we look for agency, the agency of Bergman in a Bergman film, we’re just desperately avoiding the conclusion that Bergman as such is just a node for the indirect discourse of cinema to pass through. Really, it’s Hollywood, or the dominant form of cinema, conceived as a totality, coursing through these different nodes that receive proper names to differentiate very similar, compatible worldviews. We try to avoid the question of individual free will, particularly because it is a relic of metaphysics, a centuries-old diversion that philosophy professors continually assert in order to distract people from the political. What should be studied, rather than this mythological irruption of pure will and individuality, is the conditions of possibility for certain subjects and objects to erupt into existence on a mass scale, and how they are used strategically in the opposing camps of power and resistance.
Police Mortality isn’t a product of some highly original individuals, some fucking young New York entrepreneurs. It is an important accident in the dirty history of cinema and the political and a damning, recorded admission of how power operates in the 21st Century—a particularly visible spot on the filthy sediment of Hollywood’s spectacular sheen.
Cop Land: An Interview With the Anti-Banality Union About Their New Movie, Police Mortality
In their first movie Unclear Holocaust, the anonymous crew of remix provocateurs who call themselves the Anti-Banality Union sliced up decades-worth of Hollywood disaster movies to create a troubling and frequently hilarious critique of the post-9/11 security state and Hollywood’s own civilizational deathwish. You can watch Unclear Holocaust and read our interview with its creators here.
Now the Anti-Banality Union is back with a new film, Police Mortality, which is at least as likely as its predecessor to offend, infuriate, delight, and disturb. You can watch the movie in its entirety below. The Voice sat down with the filmmakers recently to talk about what they learned by watching 180 police movies, their belief that movies accurately predict our future, Christopher Dorner, and their plans to build a participatory apocalypse.
Here’s that interview, condensed and edited for clarity:
How did Police Mortality come about?
We were in court, waiting for a friend to get out after the December 17 protests, and we were having violent fantasies. At first the idea was very juvenile. It was going to be a totally encyclopedic assembly of every cop death in every Hollywood movie – no plot whatsoever, almost mathematically edited together. The scale of it was then revised. We wound up using 122 out of 180 movies that we watched.
How would you describe the narrative arc? It begins with a police suicide, and then, in a way that kind of mirrors Unclear Holocaust, the mechanism is set into motion.
There’s a detective narrative form that’s so popular, especially on television, where you’re given a crime at the beginning, as a fact, and then you proceed backwards and reconstruct the crime in order to solve it. In Police Mortality, and in actuality, it’s the inverse. You have the necessity for crime – a lack of crime – you set about producing the crime, the criminal, and criminality in general in order to justify your employment and existential role as a cop. Instead of a retroactive reconstruction of crime, it’s an anteroactive pre-construction of crime.
So this initial non-crime bubbles into a multiplicity of crimes.
Every event in the film proceeds by the production of new forms of crime, which engenders some form of resistance, which is reintegrated as crime or as a new improvement upon the police force. Which could even be viewed as entrapment. All these cops are entrapped into killing other cops, and it spirals out of control. It’s a very difficult game of management that the police are always playing with producing crime and then managing it, reintegrating it, making it useful to police strategy. But always with the risk that they’re going to create something unmanageable, anarchic, and world-creating. This was a cleavage at OWS: did the cops lead us onto the bridge, or not? Very few people wanted to admit that we did it. Are we even doing these things of our own volition, or are we being entrapped constantly?
So much of the discussion after the bridge arrests consisted of people trying to shift responsibility for this bold iconic action onto the police. “The police tricked us into that dramatic gesture that we made!”
The agency was elsewhere. That was extremely sad. In the early days, there was this optimism that eventually died, that said, “The cops are going to join us!” But the reverse is happening at the moment of that utterance. Who’s joining who? We especially heard the cliche, “You’ll see when they come for your pensions!” Well, they’re going to come for the police pensions last. And if their pensions were taken away, they’d be quickly reintegrated into the private sector. We saw how JP Morgan Chase makes a magical $5 million donation to the NYPD when someone starts demonstrating against them. That dystopian idea in Robocop, where a corporation forecloses on a city and turns the police into a private militia, is not so dystopian. Bloomberg already publicly refers to the NYPD as his “private army”.
Everyone I’ve spoken to about this movie has said, “I need to see Robocopagain. That movie is important now in a way that I didn’t even realize.”
Agreed. Robocop emerges as the unlikely leader of the strike committee. He goes in to the precinct as a scab, and then kills all the scabs. He turns into the charismatic leader of the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force, leading the picket line, agitating, “Are we cops?” And he becomes the victim of the most ceremonious martyrdom in the end. He’s one Christopher Dorner stand-in among many.
How much intervention did you find it required to pull your themes out of the source material?
We think Hollywood is close to understanding what Police is. Especially now. In 2007/2008, there was a pocket of films from which we pulled most of the extremely brutal footage. The baby being ironed, that’s from Pride and Glory, a Brooklyn cop movie. Brooklyn’s Finest, from the same year, is also this way. And these came even after the immense ideological repression that followed 9/11, where for four or five years you couldn’t make anything remotely critical of the police.
Though these two films get close, in terms of showing both the spectacular acts of cruelty and the insidious acts of micro-cruelty that characterize police operations, no film can ever completely convey the horror that is Police on a day-to-day basis.
The most difficult thing we encountered was constructing a collectivity out of the police, because all these movies are so acutely libertarian. Die Hard, for example. But to amass all these characters into a sort of amorphous apparatus, at least on the screen, took a lot of effort.
The reality of police wouldn’t seem to be fertile ground for libertarian fantasies.
Yes. It’s an incredible myth, because the only time in everyday life that individuality within the police force crops up is when some ‘Bad Apple’ gets caught, and then he has to be lopped off. The only time that identities of police are brought up is so they can be separated from the police force as a faceless whole, which is essentially good and necessary for moral order and cleanliness. It’s the exact opposite of the cinematic myth, where the brass, bureaucracy, and the law are bumbling, slow, authoritarian, and the truth lies in the lone wolf who knows how to get things done.
For example, last year a ‘bad’ officer was convicted of civil rights violations. At his hearing, he called the NYPD the “most corrupt institution in the history of the world”. The media was quick to call this the vengeful accusation of a rotten apple. But this officer was absolutely right. He should know. He also said, “I don’t know why I didn’t commit suicide yet.” Well?
So: All Cops Are Bastards? Or did you intend some sort of redemptive potential for good cops encoded in this movie?
For us there is not this redemptive quality. But it’s a funny thought-experiment of what’s going on in liberals’ heads, filling in the plot-holes of the 99% fantasy. Whereas Police is a very real 1 percent – the 1 percent of the population it takes to keep the other 99 percent obedient.
There’s a funny moment in the movie when a character named ‘Michael Blumberg’ appears.
We were hoping to make a documentary of the future. Whether its Michael Bloomberg or Rodney King, the Brooklyn Bridge march or the killing of Reynaldo Cuevas, even Cannibal Cop, all these figures and events show up embryonically in Hollywood far before the ‘actual’ figures or events. Hollywood constructs this reality, or its future contours — we’re just logically piecing it together. Ultimately, we’d like to map a future of our own.
So that’s one area of thematic overlap with Unclear Holocaust. Are there others, either in terms of how you worked or what you produced?
The two films say similar things about Hollywood: firstly, that the Hollywood project, formally speaking, is a systematic disordering of all the senses. In Police Mortality, even more than Unclear Holocaust, we discovered that this project corresponds to a sublimated desire in Hollywood for a disordering of the world, a real underlying need to anarchize society.
So in this film we agreed much more – I was going to say we agree much more with Hollywood now, that their critique is getting better, and they dream up the most beautiful ways of achieving this anarchy. Unfortunately they always reterritorialize on order and the ultimate goodness of the police. But if you just ignore the endings of these movies, they’re incredible documents of what could happen.
We have a strategy: root for the bad guys, and don’t watch the last 15 minutes, and all these movies are incredible. Dark Knight Rises, most of all: just don’t watch the last hour!
With Dark Knight, you have the police as impotent underdogs up against the all-powerful and evil residents of the city. It also has that line that you use so well in Police Mortality, “There’s only one police in this town,” which comes right as you’re creating this kaleidoscopic multiplicity of police.
That line is less of a defiant declaration than it is a descriptive statement. The police in this civil war are all still unified in a certain way. If there’s some semblance of victory, of good over bad, of revolution versus reaction, it’s not of one faction against another. It’s more a mildly successful internal purge, a bloody reform.
In the final battle we wanted to start from this extremely logical binary fight that explodes into a completely cinematic relative space of pure continuity, lines of cops from every possible police force that’s ever existed, shooting at each other, exploding, killing themselves, as cinematic space simultaneously fragments and implodes. It’s part of the continuing implosion, of Police and Hollywood alike – the stock exchange exploding, Denzel Washington having a lethal seizure, Will Smith burying himself in a coffin.
What is it that provokes that mass cop suicide?
In their celebration, as they’re firing off their guns victoriously, they accidentally liberate the vast prison they’ve created out of the world, leading to an enormous joyous anarchic riot. It’s supposed to be extremely improbable, sort of like a Brechtian deus ex machina. Another discourse that’s literalized in that sequence is the anarchists’ messianic hope for the riot. “Everything will be different after the riot!” “It’s the end of a world!” Which is questionable.
Do you try to undercut that in the film?
No, we sympathize with it entirely. But it’s a movie that aims to please everyone. We literally fulfill everyone’s fantasies. The insurrectionists, the New World Order freaks, the pigs: we have a total audience. Everyone can agree; this is what we want, and this is probably not how it’s going to happen.
The Christoher Dorner saga happened right as you were putting the finishing touches on the movie. What did you make of how people reacted to Dorner?
It contains a lot of very similar ambiguities to Police Mortality. He’s carrying out these incredible feats of daring, but for the purpose of purging the police department and making it ‘good’ again. Even so, his goals seemed total. The police force is rotten to the core, we have to purge it entirely, get rid of everyone. It sounded pretty apocalyptic to us. “You can’t get rid of rotten apples by shifting them around in the barrel.” The barrel itself is a powderkeg!
The conversation around Dorner was best encapsulated in an op-ed in the Times: “Don’t Mythologize Christopher Dorner.” It had reached this critical threshold where journalism becomes orders: “Don’t.”
Like how during the cabin siege the police ordered the press: “Do not tweet this.”
It’s the same as the eviction of Zuccotti Park: the moment of direct action, so to speak, when you cannot see how power operates. You absolutely cannot see it because it could be potentially devastating, to the social illusion of ‘perpetual peace’, when power reveals itself in all its naked force. So don’t let anyone see it. “Bury it.” “Everything points to him being a folk hero – but — don’t!”
Speaking of the press: during Hurricane Sandy, we saw images directly out of Unclear Holocaust distributed as news items. The wave breaking over the Statue of Liberty, with the NY1 banner added over it. That was a very profound experience, to see these CGI images becoming real, or at least have real effects. We wanted to try this with the 2012 myth too. Exploit it as a potential. Ok, there’s not going to be this apocalypse from without. But let’s do apocalypse! If everyone wants this, if everyone’s so taken with these ideas, let’s enact it ourselves.
The sequence in Police Mortality when the cops detonate the Brooklyn Bridge is quoted straight from Unclear Holocaust, but here it’s framed as breaking news on TV, with the Anti-Banality symbol superimposed. It’s becoming the news.
You’re modeling the process by which you hope to become the breaking news.
That moment is the navel of the movie. We like the phrase “breaking news,” too.
Before we can apocalypse, we have to break the news.
This is already our press movie. There is a substantial amount of media interrogation in Unclear Holocaust too, but this project was much more informed by the direct experience of seeing people arrested by cops posing as photographers, by being surrounded by throngs of videographers providing evidence 30 frames per second, and all the unconscious or sometimes conscious ways in which the press is very carefully integrated into the police apparatus.
This was another philosophical cleavage in Zuccotti park, because there were plenty of people who said, “We’re broadcasting ourselves, we’re in control of this message, and there are all these salutary benefits of transparency — this is what keeps us honest to ourselves, that we’re surveilling ourselves.”
Policing ourselves! Surrounding ourselves with mirrors and not seeing anything but ourselves. We preferred the opposing tendency, which was almost an Islamic theological anti-representational streak, that tied in with the core anti-representational aspect of OWS; the extreme reluctance of being represented in any way, whether it be in some political process or in images.
The result of all these philosophical arguments is everyone mutually accusing each other of being police. “The Black Bloc is obviously cops. The liberals are cops. The journos are cops. The cops are cops. The cops are not cops — they’re the 99 percent!” This became the central egalitarian principal at the park: we’re all cops, in one way or another. We started trying to de-police everything, and instead we made the police total. This cynical twist is what produced the framework for Police Mortality. There was this continuing frustration at OWS, which isn’t to say it wasn’t the most important thing that’s happened in New York in a long time, but that was a very difficult part of it to work through.
You’ve said you see a potential pedagogical value of Police Mortality?
All jokes aside, we made this as a training video for cops everywhere. It should be followed to the letter.
The Zombie Movie Without Zombies
A.M. GITTLITZ October 30, 2014
As unlikely as a “zombie apocalypse” remains, earnest discussion of how to prepare for such an event is a long-standing cultural standby. Amid a bloom of supernatural-orientated dramas culled from comics and B-Movies of the 50s, the zombie genre stands out as the most socially introspective. It raises the question of how to survive once society breaks down—a question that feels increasingly relevant. But the genre lets us approach the question sideways: it gives us enemies so slow and brain-dead that we can broach the subject playfully.
The reasons for the genre’s appeal are obvious. We can imagine its heroes blasting away hundreds of commoners approaching our castle without being bothered by the implications of class. Its villains are clear and uncomplicated, and the goal of the good guys is always to immunize themselves so as to remain human, while anchoring themselves to the sinking ship of civilization.
A new film, though, removes the comforting presence of that good-and-evil dichotomy. State of Emergence is a zombie movie without zombies. It’s the latest film by the Anti-Banality Union, an anonymous collective that re-edits genre blockbusters as a means of mocking their clichés and composing their own radical theses in the process. The result of this experiment is unsettling above and beyond their source material, and it cuts to the core of our angst over today’s emerging and intermingling global crises. (Watch the film’s trailer here.)
“The illness that society feels victimized by has metastasized to an irreversible degree,” Anti-Banality wrote in the announcement of its premier at Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater on October 19. “It can’t be cured with surgery, heavy medication, or even wholesale amputation…the virus is becoming stronger than its host, and its hostility is irrepressible.”
The film opens with a montage of panicked TV anchors warning, vaguely, of chaos on the streets, martial law, endless traffic jams, and brutal gunplay (a few actual news items are interspersed here), but there’s no sign of the actual enemy. Three protagonists emerge—Brad Pitt’s character in World War Z (2013), Charlton Heston’s in Omega Man (1971), and Vincent Price’s in The Last Man on Earth (1964). The film cuts between the footage and creates a new narrative in the process. In this new storyline, the three protagonists struggle to survive while keeping themselves at a distance from the societal collapse around them.
These stoic Cruesoes become stand-ins for civilization’s most ardent ideologies. Pitt is a heroic patriarch defending the nuclear family, Heston is a cultured aristocrat pouring himself high-balls in his velvet robe, and Price is clinging to humanism in a time of literal inhumanity. By the end of State of Emergence, a faceless secret society has emerged to assassinate these Modern Men in their castles; it then delivers its own message of rebuilding the world after disaster (hence the film’s uncomfortably optimistic title).
This is Anti-Banality’s third eschatological feature. In 2011’s Unclear Holocaust, which the Village Voicecalled “the funniest 9/11 movie ever,” every movie that portrays New York City’s destruction is edited together into one all-encompassing disaster. In Police Mortality (2013), hundreds of cop films are crafted into a narrative of a police strike that turns into a massive civil war: all of society is deputized and engulfed in one big shoot-out. Influenced by the insurrectionary joy of Occupy Wall Street and related uprisings worldwide, State of Emergence captures the malaise of these movements’ collapse into the reaction of right-wing populism, dictatorship, and war.
For Anti-Banality there is little difference between the zombie-creating contagion and those political forces that fight to reinstall the fallen dictatorships of Pitt, Heston, and Price as civilization’s heroic avatars. In between brief moments of dialogue, looting, and boredom, there are relentless montages of gunfire from police and military snipers. In this latest film, it is as if Anti-Banality could not build a plot as coherent as their previous ones without losing their focus in the shell-shocked cacophony of armed forces jockeying for control.
But twenty-four-hour news cycles and the disaster porn of contemporary cinema don’t need a built-in narrative thread—they create their own. As if patching them together in the Anti-Banality film-splice method, the media speaks of Ebola and ISIS in the same breath, linking them together in our minds as if they are both components of the zombie apocalypse we’ve being waiting for—a combination of Mother Nature’s wrath with the soullessness of the modern ideological foot soldier. Watch in fear as the outbreak spreads, through both disease and terror attacks. Stay in your homes, be prepared for the worst—but most importantly, don’t return to the streets.
Early on in State of Emergence, in a scene borrowed from World War Z, an officer swerving through a city-wide traffic jam barks at Brad Pitt to stay in his vehicle. Mid-sentence, a trash truck pulverizes the cop as it bulldozes through traffic, smashing every vehicle in its way, in a homicidal gambit to escape the city. The visual punchline is a rare one. While Police Mortality was like a blood-soaked update of the Keystone Kops, there are few such laughs in Emergence; it’s a chilling look at how our contemporary apocalypse-in-the-making terrifies us into passivity. For a second, I even wished the snarling cop would come back to life to keep traffic in line.