The Festival of dystopia

If we don’t take care of artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence will take care of us. It already does: the 80th Venice Film Festival knows too well, and before it began, it had to measure itself against the consequences of the Hollywood screenwriters’ and actors’ strike, where among the significant issues is precisely the use of new, controversial technologies capable of severely penalizing entertainment workers. The absence on the red carpet of the stars on strike thus refers us to a present and a future at the crossroads between progress and dystopia. And different kinds of the apocalypse are measured, not surprisingly, in various titles of the Festival: from the end of the world as a pretext for a reflection on the order of our time (in the film by the 90-year-old Golden Lioness Liliana Cavani) to the war between victims of environmental and energy catastrophe in Antonio Pisu’s Nina dei Lupi (seen at Venice Days), to Stefano Sollima’s noir Adagio, where Rome is no longer Eternal, instead it is an agonizing city on the verge of an eco-climatic collapse, only a year after Paolo Virzì’s Siccità and his dried river Tevere. But most emblematically representing the anxieties about what is to come (and some of it is) is artificial intelligence: these days, there have been several meetings in which the film world has discussed the risks and opportunities of the use of A.I. in the industry, and by extension in all our lives. La bête by Bertrand Bonello foreshadows a 2044 where A.I. is used to anaesthetize our deepest emotions, now considered annoying obstacles to our efficiency in the workplace—programming flaws in our DNA to be “purified” from an increasingly less human-friendly marketplace and society. Perhaps, instead of worrying too much about machines becoming more and more like us, we should be careful that we do not become more and more like machines. We are unable to empathize with our neighbours, get angry at the injustices around us and, most importantly, feel some healthy fear for a future to be averted. It is a good thing that sometimes movies remind us how important it is to be still able to feel this.

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