The Human Surge Screen 89 of 30 reviews

The Human Surge

2016

The Human Surge Poster
  • An exciting debut feature, THE HUMAN SURGE is full of bold formal decisions that reflect an avid curiosity about making movies... These approaches elicit some compelling observations about the day-to-day impact of globalization, but Williams is more interested in using cinema to forge connections between different people and places. The film is more poem than prose, which in documentary filmmaking is never a bad thing.

  • With minimal preparation, cross-language collaboration with non-actors, and spontaneous incorporation, Williams operates semi-consciously—call it automatic filmmaking. Rhythm and environment supersede conventional narrative, with dialogue an additional layer of texture rather than propellant. The resulting film imbues a concrete world with dream logic as it flows through three sections.

  • With The Human Surge, a debut feature that defies categorization and other expectations besides, the Argentinean director Eduardo Williams has done nothing less than attempt to rewire narrative cinema for the information age. It’s a testament to his talent that he so often succeeds.

  • The mood of The Human Surge is mostly one of repose, but repose haunted by the prospect of work, the threat of which is felt throughout the film—shirking it, submitting to it, dreading waking up to it, getting fired, walking off of the job. (And yes, those are worker ants.) It makes for an exhilarating, boldly paradoxical experience—a headlong dive into the rich, knotty, sticky undergrowth amid a proliferation of tidy, well-lit paths.

  • Propelled by its engagement, free spirit and innate musicality, the film submits to a fascinating form of human express, whose flows of diverse, global exchange have become vital in an increasingly modern-day dystopia... In breezy and laidback fashion, Williams renders a portrait of aimless youth staving off boredom and loneliness through communal escape and shared complicity: An anthem in the making.

  • Eduardo Williams’ ingenious feature debut feels like a movie happening ten minutes into the future... This is the newest wave: formal freedom, palpable human experience and haunting hybridity by way of a hyperaware post-post-Godardian agreement between audience and filmmaker. Yeah it’s a movie, and you’re a viewer, but the experience remains cosmic.

  • Williams is interested in how, as a filmmaker, you can pull off sudden shifts in format, tone, movement, and scale—how you can turn from a scene of inertia to one of stuttering momentum, or move from the microscopically small to the majestic and wide, or pass from continent to continent in a matter of seconds.

  • An excavation into humanity’s laidback forgotten bodies. A film that often seems to exist at the surface of flat overexposed images (no surprise webcam work features throughout). The image texture a true aesthetic weapon. It applies what has always been the main source of intrigue in Argentinean culture, a believe on the power of fiction to a series of situations that might at first feel outside of it and in the process gives a true shot in the arm of energy in many tired festival tropes.

  • A crap Koyaanisqatsi befitting our time... This is post-Costa cinema, slow but chopped to average feature length, puzzling, engrossing, and alienating.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Jordan Cronk
    November 04, 2016 | Toronto | December 2016 Issue (pp. 54-55)

    After several well-regarded short films, Williams's first feature, The Human Surge, is singular and unclassifiable... He moves between episodes by wa of increasingly radical devices – the most memorable finds his camera burrowing into an anthill only to emerge from the soil several thousand miles away.

  • The most strikingly new and unfamiliar film I saw at TIFF was Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge... Movement lies at the heart of cinema — and at the heart of this film.

  • Young though he may be, the Argentinian director has developed a recognizable visual grammar, made of meandering characters and sequences, long tracking shots, a faux-amateurish digital aesthetic (even when he is not using digital cameras), and a remarkably keen eye for the layered dynamics between people and spaces. The Human Surge builds on and amplifies traits that were already evident in Williams’s shorts.

  • This natural world, full of wonder and beauty, adds a timeless, fable-like feel to Williams’ documentary aesthetic. This hybridity is also emphasized by Williams’ shifts between formats, from 16mm to video. His milieu is savvy, social-media driven but also imbued with nostalgia for the analogue world.

  • Instead of defaulting to film school techniques to talk about how we live now, Williams simply uses how we live now as his tool. By that gauge, The Human Surge presents a world brave and new, full of creatures who’ve successfully transmuted silicon into gold and wander, together, with no clear path in sight.

  • An unclassifiable whatsit of a movie... It’s a ferocious stylistic gambit that’s even weirder to behold than it sounds. Williams’ camera pushes forward without once looking back, traversing languages (spoken, typed, and otherwise) as well as shooting formats in a globalized breeze that defies easy delineation.

  • For a film seemingly interested more in bodies and the space they traverse than the particular lives those bodies lead, The Human Surge registers as a surpassingly empathetic work; even its aggressively inhuman final sequence, set in a tablet computer factory, somehow managed to move me, representing an incontrovertible shift toward a new kind of labor, built to feed an insatiable need for human connection through technology.

  • The Human Surge, in its transit between languages and cultures, offers its performers freedom—though of course Williams retains the right to shape and rearrange the characters’ words during editing. Still, this sense of openness to misdirection, this sense of searching and maybe not quite finding, leaves its mark on the film’s unsteady rhythms. Even the film’s emphasis on groups rather than individuals utterly scrambles any notion of a clear narrative arc.

  • The most impressive discovery all festival was Eduardo Williams’ debut The Human Surge. Although slotted in Concorso Cineasti del Presente, the sidebar reserved for first and second features, it could easily have stood its own in the main competition. An innovative take on observational ethnofiction, the film is a triptych portrait of lower class youth in countries across the globe.

  • Shot on three continents, El Auge del Humano introduces us to different young men who all have just entered adult life and are physically separated by the oceans. The film follows their movements, their bodies in constant interaction and their ordinary lives. Throughout, the filmmaker adds doses of beauty and strangeness and, as the characters share their feelings, something seems to connect them all.

  • One major challenge for this work that straddles different locations and casts involves the creation of connections between three successive narratives. Williams largely succeeds even if there is a certain didacticism in his geographic movement and its summary in the film’s epilogue, when we enter a manufacturing plant where workers are constructing LCD screens.

  • A scene of teenage boys engaging in tentative sex play with one another for a webcam show is presented with sufficient flatness of affect to make a viewer suspect that Mr. Williams is interested in blurring the lines between verisimilitude and tedium. Just when you think you’ve got the movie pegged, it pulls a daring switch of perspective. While the thrill of that little coup is short-lived, it suggests that Mr. Williams may come up with something more substantial with his next feature.

  • The film was difficult to engage with; the handheld camera work is shaky and unfocused, the POV ventures into naturally (read poorly) lit spaces and Williams completely refuses to construct seamless linear progression, which is obfuscating but also gives way to a fascinating concept: that reality resists our attempts to understand it. Though the film itself isn’t remarkable to my mind, what viewing it in this context has achieved, is.

  • Sounds like a case of the five obstructions: do a globe-trotting riff on Slacker BUT follow the subjects with nausea-inducing shakiness, use only available light so some of it is illegible, don't set anything up so passers-by keep turning or acknowledging the camera, and, once the characters stop, linger along with them to the point of enervation. Heavy going but increasingly magical, especially as locations get shabbier and increasingly (then completely) rural.

  • A deceptively simple documentary that follows different people from different countries into the ebb, the flow and the muck of life, a cine-journey that has stirred up excitement on the festival circuit.

  • Like so many contemporary moving-image artists in the developing world, Williams seems more committed to what might be called the anti-aesthetic aesthetic of Philippine director Lav Diaz than to the pictorial lyricism of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

  • The plot is unsummarizable, and I’m not even sure the word “plot” even applies. What Williams does here is deep immersion: by traveling so far back from characters who often becomes smaller points in urban and rural settings, the sense of seeing world rendered immense is intense.

  • There’s no obvious map for a film which seems to phase in and out of focus, one moment seeming scrappily thrown together, the next elegantly crafted, but always brazenly flouting stable criteria of plot and narrative. Beyond observations about the way that global connectivity at once connects and radically separates the economically excluded, it’s hard to know entirely what Williams is gesturing at. But he means business, and this perplexing film will resonate.

  • The slow-burn, meditative quality of the movie can make it a tough sit, but each new phase enhances the gamble of the project as a whole. The formats shift from Super 16mm to digital video as its world keeps opening up to new locations. The movie pushes forward in a daze, lost in its characters’ lives.

  • There's something admirably brazen about how Williams doesn't ever deviate from his one main formal idea, with each of his meandering tracking shots repeatedly capturing moments of unlikely, unpredictable grace, particularly when combined with the oneiric dialogue he places in his characters' mouths… But even the most inspired of approaches inevitably wears somewhat thin when applied again and again.

  • Williams's way of sidestepping [arthouse] cliché is by chucking plot and character out the window altogether... When not hunkering down to observe these youths from the corners of darkened rooms, this nausea-inducing camera eye trails their movement through city streets from approximately a dozen yards away, a style that evokes less the austere mobility of Alan Clarke's films than the voyeurism of paparazzi simply trying to keep up with their targets.

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