By J. P. Telotte
Technology fiction motion pictures have fun and critique the influence of a burgeoning know-how at the world's cultural, political, and social milieu.
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Additional info for A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age
As an alternative, he heads back toward the rocks, dodging them and letting the boulders chase off his female pursuers. He has simply turned that natural instability to his own end, using one chaotic element to negate another. That same imaginative and transformative spirit underlies Keaton's relationship to the machine, which, for all of its often daunting power or puzzling character, remains a source of attraction, and at times even a vehicle of salvation. In The Navigator, for example, Rollo Treadway and his girl, attacked by cannibals, abandon their steamship and sink beneath the waves, only to be saved at the last moment by a passing submarine, which just happens to surface under them.
7 The lights flicker off and on, and the train Keaton has rigged to serve meals jumps its track, dumping the main course in the lap of the Dean's wife. Further compounding this unpredictability is the appearance of a real electrical engineer, jealous of Buster's work, who tinkers with the wiring to make the entire house appear as if it had a mind of its own. The chaos that results, as all the household mechanisms run amuck and make the inhabitants think the place is haunted, drives home the film's key point: that modernizing the world or a house does not make it any less capable of surprise, any less challenging, any less human.
However, in the twentieth century, the machine increasingly was employed "to manufacture objects that were themselves machines telephones, phonographs, coffee makers, toasters, vacuum cleaners" (Real Thing 142); those machines, in turn, marked an ever greater distance from the natural world inhabited by previous generations. More subtly, they began to fashion a world that was fundamentally defined by distance, from the beliefs and values of those earlier generations, from the "aura" of things, even from each other.
A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age by J. P. Telotte