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The Net (2003)

Das Netz (original title)
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Director: Lutz Dammbeck
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Cast

Credited cast:
Lutz Dammbeck ...
Himself
Eva Mattes ...
Narrator (voice)
Tom Vogt ...
Narrator (voice) (as Thomas Vogt)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Himself
John Brockman ...
Himself
Butch Gehring ...
Himself
David Gelernter ...
Himself
Theodore John Kaczynski ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Timothy Leary ...
Himself (archive footage)
Henry A. Murray ...
Himself (archive footage)
Robert W. Taylor ...
Himself
Heinz von Foerster ...
Himself
Chris Waits ...
Himself
Norbert Wiener ...
Himself (archive footage)
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13 January 2005 (Germany)  »

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The Net  »

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1.66 : 1
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Provocative and frightening but inconclusive
1 May 2005 | by (France) – See all my reviews

The film was shown this weekend (30 April) in Paris in the presence of its director, Lutz Dammbeck, who stayed to take questions from the audience afterword's.

The film's premise is frightening enough -- the internet was originally developed through a sort of unholy alliance between (i) scientists bent on "remodelling" post-WW II man in order to avoid a repeat of war by isolating (through various mind-control experiments) and then removing the genesis of authoritarian personalities, (ii) the American intelligence community bent on winning the Cold War, and (iii) (somewhat improbably) a group of "hippie" non-conformists and artists who shared the vision of the aforementioned scientists. Dammbeck develops the premise by a series of interviews with various members of each group whom he considers as having been the "architechts" of the internet.

Against this alliance stands Dammbeck's unpalatable anti-hero, the Unabomber (whom Dammbeck certainly does not admire, yet has some sympathy with -- Dammbeck reminds us that Kaczynski was one of the students who actually underwent the mind-control experiments in question, which may have triggered the unhinging of his mind).

The problem with the film is that in each of the interviews, after having drawn out his subject into explaining his role in the development of the internet, Dammbeck then asks the interviewee whether such development was not subject to legitimate criticism and then provides as an example...the criticisms made by Kaczynski in his Unabomber manifesto! Of course, this simply triggers an emotional response from each of the interviewees that Kaczynski was either a madman, a dangerous criminal or both, so that the question of whether there is not some truth to the argument that such development was dangerous is never answered. Dammbeck never first alludes in his interviews to other critics of technological positivism who did not feel it necessary to make their criticisms by means of letter bombs.

This "technique" reaches its paroxysm when Dammbeck interviews one of the Unabomber's victims, who lost an eye and a hand to one of the letter bombs, and asks him whether he does not feel that Kaczynski had some worthwhile criticisms to make. Needless to say, the interviewee responds with an entirely understandable emotional response which the audience is somehow supposed to feel constitutes a refusal to consider the merits of the question.

Dammbeck might have been better off asking his of his interviewees a series of less "loaded" questions first before springing on them "So, do you think that this fellow who killed three people and wounded a dozen others (including in one case the actual interviewee!) had something worthwhile to say?" It is too bad that this technique takes the edge off what is a very troubling theory developed in the film. Still, it is a film worth seeing, particularly as it becomes clear by the end of the film that Dammbeck has in fact been keeping up a running correspondence with Kaczynski and has a good idea of what makes him tick.


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