Film Review | The Great Machine (2015)

Film run-time: 4 minutes | Starring “Seth” as Narrator
Written and Directed by Luc Chamberland, Music and Sound Design by Luigi Allemano, Edited by Jo Meuris and Luc Chamberland

The Great Machine“, a 2015 short film by Luc Chamberland, is an enigmatic thought piece that enchants as an engaging morsel of mystery, embodying a multitude of interpretations of its possible meaning. Set in the small, fictitious town of Echo, Ontario, a place seemingly devoid of citizens, a machine housed in a “typical, post-war apartment building” churns on. Its purpose? Unknown.

Presented in a narrative style that draws viewers deeper into its mystery in a literal fashion, the film pans through and beneath empty streets and corridors, houses vacant of occupants, into the depths of a system of various machinery which whizzes and stomps, alive with a pressing urgency. Reminiscent of an urban legend told in jest or foreboding, the film is a coy paradox that denies full closure.

A various reading of the film can be had in one’s decoction of the machine’s significance, a central question of the plot. One interpretation may be that it is a metaphor for the Industrial Revolution’s automation of traditional tasks which would require human intervention, hence the absence of people; another may be that beneath all the social characteristics of civilization, there are unknowable and immutable workings that operate beyond the former’s regard, like the movement of planets, or in this instance, the motions of a foundational structure.

At its conclusion, in the disclosure of a sign of operating hours, there is an additional layer that is explored: akin to a Potemkin village, what if a construct serves only a usefulness of being observed, and its purported utility is entirely fabricated for this purpose? As a comparison to capitalist tendencies to promote “progress” without real advancement, solely for the profit of consumer trends, there is potency in the image of a machine which has only the illusion of function. Ultimately, however, the many readings of “The Great Machine” may be just that: interpretations of a riddle, and no true answer may be found.

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