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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 05.09.10] France movie review thriller drama

Year: 2008
Directors: Nicolas Alberny & Jean Mach
Writers: Nicolas Alberny & Jean Mach
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 5 out of 10

A brave attempt to convey an internet-driven revolution filmed on a shoestring budget, 8th Wonderland is an ambitious film that looks at the effect of technological change on society through the use of some unusual techniques. Unfortunately it falls well short of what it wants to be, hampered by a small budget but also its mercurial subject matter.

8th Wonderland is an internet community that aims to become the first online country, asserting itself on the world stage by organising pranks such as putting condom machines in the Vatican, before moving on to organising demonstrations and strikes. As the media begins to take notice this budding internet state gets more aggressive, its members voting to commit acts of terrorist violence, and the responsibilities of power dawn on its idealistic members. This is conveyed almost exclusively through the use of fake news footage and CGI representations of the website's interface, an unusual approach.

An enigmatic organisation, 8th Wonderland seems to exist separate from the world population rather than be part of it, with FBI agents attempting to crack the site and track its discussions. In this it is closer to a secret Al Qaeda website than a social networking forum, and it's a bit puzzling how its diverse, international user base found their way on there in the first place. That the website is presented as a liberal force for change is undermined by its eliteness, an accident of presentation that leaves a huge gap between what we're told it is and what we actually see.

From the talk given by directors Nicholas Alberny and Jean Mach after the film it seems that the script was too old to catch the social networking revolution, the time between its inception and the film being finished so long as to miss not only Twitter but Facebook as well. Even bearing this in mind the 8th Wonderland website is dated, more Usenet than Web 2.0. It's a film that tackles quite new, interesting ideas with a very old-fashioned view of what the internet is.

Presentation is a bit more modern, with individual members represented by their live stream, floating in a carousel on-screen as they discuss their growing influence and what action to take next. It all looks a bit cheap though, and the wisdom of attempting such a CGI-heavy format on a low budget is questionable. A small cast of decent actors is the usual path to success for a low budget movie, and 8th Wonderland's huge cast and sprawling world of internet forums, fake newscasters and fake newsreels is just too ambitious. Some of the acting is terrible, a demonstration outside a factory showcasing some awful forced shouting and indecisively pumped fists.

The directors explained that they originally wanted to have each piece of dialogue on the website spoken by a different actor, but the result was too confusing so they reverted to the still quite large cast that drives its internet revolution. This compromise is indicative of why 8th Wonderland fails, the website's tiny user base feeling unrealistic while the narrative is still confused by a large and inexperienced cast. This ambitious, sprawling film has some interesting ideas behind it, but has fudged its presentation of the internet while not actually seeming to understand it in the first place. In that it fails decisively, and the overall feeling of cheapness just serves to make things worse.

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Gaius (8 years ago) Reply

The movie being a fail doesn't mean the idea can't become a reality. I invite you to join the first website 8thWonderland(a second version is in developpment by a team you can find on skype if you ask me)
Your welcome in our organisation. See you soon.

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