Adam Curtis’s documentaries have always been as much about fables and mythology as left-wing politics and philosophy. Curtis is a storyteller at heart, and as complex and insightful as All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is, the most intriguing part of the series is how it’s presented as an epic narrative.
The documentary tells the story of how computers were built to liberate us from our heavily controlled drone-like lives. Weaving through recent history like the expert storyteller that he is, Curtis introduces us to influential (but ultimately misguided) characters like Ayn Rand and Bill Clinton, who each contribute to the point of the fable: that the computers that were built to free us, will ultimately distort and simplify the world around us, trapping us in a system of control ruled by meaningless numbers and statistics. The story takes us around the world, introducing us to new characters and killing them off, presenting us with short (un)controlled experiments and demonstrating how the masses can be treated as numbers, and how the individual can be perceived as a machine.
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is the story of mankind’s self destruction, told with a visual flare, brilliant editing and an inspired soundtrack. It feels like a myth, like fiction, or else a future account of the failings of humanity, as if a baby robot had said “tell me about those silly humans again daddy”.
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace aired in May 2011, but if you missed it you can watch the series online by clicking on this link.
Adam Curtis is a documentary film maker, whose work includes The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, The Mayfair Set, Pandora’s Box, The Trap and The Living Dead.
Check out more of Adam Curtis’s films on his blog: http://adamcurtisfilms.blogspot.com/