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Lapsis

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Noah Hutton’s sci-fi satire Lapsis is full of clever nods to current entrapments while showing a future world that is to close to our current one for comfort.

Lapsis is the kind of every-era experience that could easily relate to anyone. Whether you have a fear of technology, surveillance states, or Jeff Bezos, there is something for everyone. With 80’s nature-punk sensibility, this is an eventuality we didn’t just allow to happen but invited. This future is in an even bigger struggle with the ecosystem than we already are. National parks are invaded by massive magnetic cubes and miles of snaking cable that is just laid on the forest floor. Simple but effective imagery combined with a great performance by Dean Imperial’s greasy but well-meaning everyman Ray, Lapsis is an uncomfortable look at capitalism and consumerism’s endgame.

This is a future reality where the divide between the haves and the have nots has become even greater. Technology has served as a wedge to drive them even further apart. Specifically the Quantum, an interconnected computer system that everyone needs to own to function. Without it, information is wrong or missing, and life is impossible. Parking schedules and job opportunities all require the use of a Quantum. If you can’t afford one or don’t want to afford one, you are out of luck. You become a technology pariah that is as unfortunate as the dinosaurs who went extinct millions of years ago.

In the wake of the Quantum explosion, there has been a whole host of new businesses crop up. Most of them disguise the abuse of workers as progress. With a little time, you can make enough money to pay for college, pay off debt, or pay for medical treatments for those suffering from a disease that probably has been caused by the Quantum.

Ray, a middle-aged sanitation worker with a vaguely ’70s mobster vibe, is a hard-working man who is barely making ends meet. His brother has a disease called Omni, a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome like illness that has ruined his life. He can’t work, have fun, or barely move from the couch. The disease which some think is fake and others are happy to profit from is debilitating. Those who suffer from it are willing to take chances on shoddy medicine for any relief.

Lapsis
of Couple 3 Films

In a desperate attempt to help his brother Ray takes a cabling job that promises quick money if you can get a medallion. Those familiar with the taxi business recognize the career controlling tokens. When a “friend” offers a medallion to Ray, it is too good to be true.

The cablers are ridiculously low tech. A backpack, a cart, some hiking boots, and a can-do attitude are all you need. It’s funny just how simple it looks. Lapsis is like the world of Idiocracy landed an all-powerful computer requiring endless spools of cable to be randomly plugged in and strung around the globe haphazardly. The labor force is controlled by the black market Medallion sellers that take their pound of flesh, and the company itself. Each new hire is tagged, and DNA imprinted to allow unrestricted access to their every action. Money can be made, but not without a lot of exploitation. The deck is stacked against them, and everyone knows it.

When on the job, you aren’t allowed to eat, rest, or even shit when you want too. The company controls everything. If you fail to deliver on your route before your competing robot does, you don’t get paid. Regardless of how much time you have already spent hiking. The newer cablers only have access to the shortest and cheapest jobs designed to pique your interest. For Ray and others like him, they are willing to take the intrusion because the lure of fast money is too great.

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Clear direction by Sutton and impactful production design by Alexander Linde drive home the message. Everyone accepts their Quantum imprisonment. We have become complacent and lazy. It’s a brilliant business model but one destined to implode. If you destroy the things you need to use and fix your product, finally, there is nothing to propel the engine forward. The cable bots may be able to do most of what humans can do, but they don’t spend money, and that’s a major problem.

The cable companies are pushers doling out just a taste to hook their addicts on easy money before they realize how fruitless things are. Anyone who has ever played Fortnite knows the allure of spending just .99 cents on a new skin or dance move. The cable companies work on the same premise. You can make a little money for free, or make a lot if you spend on newer equipment that you buy directly from them, of course.

Courtesy of Couple 3 Films

Once Ray accepts his first job and begins cabling, the film takes off. His new Medallion turns out to be the key to a larger mystery. That finds our reluctant hero in the middle of a rebellion. All set against the majestic backdrop of a gorgeous but quickly diminishing forest, Lapsis makes a clear statement. Punctuated by intentionally bizarre and discussions with his brother and the doctor who is treating him in one of many fraudulent new-age medical facilities, Hutton skewers our dependence on stuff and asks us not to be “afraid to challenge our status quo.” This line is chirped to the workers each time they try to take an unapproved break.

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Ray’s a good if simple guy. That’s the brilliance of the film. Imperial plays Ray as a befuddled but devoted brother who firmly believes in the American dream. If you work hard, life will be fair. When he meets enigmatic Anna, a well-cast Madeline Wise, he begins to realize he may have it all wrong.

Hutton’s film lives and dies the viewer’s acceptance of Ray and willingness to see our current world in Lapsis’. Sure the cable itself and Quantum technology are a little clunky. That is the point, though. We are all so connected you don’t need to chip us with vaccines. We already willingly hand over our DNA to track our ancestors and carry the best human identifier on the planet. Anyone who has ever had a conversation one night and has ads pop up in social media for related things the next morning knows precisely what I’m talking about. We joke about Alexa always listening, but she is. This film takes that comical paranoia and highlights it.

Lapsis is an indictment of consumer dependence and the pitfalls that come with it. Side business each a little less legal than the next pop up everywhere as a result of the gig economy powerhouse. The company itself subsidizes Bitcoinesque currency that can be used to purchase equipment and creature comforts on the trail. Everything is designed to keep you beholden and coming back. Even our arch-nemesis cable bots get help from the humans. They plug them in and shelter them, for a fee, of course, each night. We are lemmings to entranced by the little boxes that provide us entertainment and work to see how trapped we are.

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How many have built tiny closets for Amazon to have easier access to our house and hopefully keep porch pirates away? We log in and space out while checking out all the beautiful or angry people on Instagram and Twitter and shop for shit we never need. Does anyone actually need a juicer? Lapsis is an uncomfortable but funny reminder of how stupid we are.

Lapsis is streaming on demand during Fantasia International Film Festival from August 20th, 2020, through September 2nd, 2020. Read our full Fantasia Festival coverage here.

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