Benjamin Dickinson’s “Creative Control” is set in near future Brooklyn where the attachment to technology, creating content, and working for a corporation has become just as empty and meaningless as the colorless aesthetic that permeates the film. Dickinson, who co-wrote, directed and starred in the film, presents a would-be sci-fi future where we’re even more married to our technology than we are presently. The film is beautifully shot in black and white with just splashes of color when need be. It has some good talking points, but the film is cold and pretentious with shallow, unlikable characters that are underdeveloped.
Sadly, the truth is that “Creative Control” is less of a representation of the possible future and more so a look at the present and the path we’re already walking in terms of technology. The blur between reality and our online lifestyle is at the heart of the film. Dickinson’s David, an ad executive at Augmenta is leading the marketing on the firm’s latest virtual reality glasses. Before this project, we know David is an unhappy person, turning to drugs and alcohol to try and escape the reality of his life temporarily. With his suit and finely trimmed beard, he looks like every other guy walking around his workplace, and he doesn’t seem happy with his girlfriend, Juliette (Nora Zehetner).
This feeling of emptiness in the boardroom and in the bedroom has him turning to the virtual reality glasses, which allow him to begin an affair with a virtual construction of his best friend’s girlfriend, Sophie (Alexia Rasmussen), a struggling fashion model whom David quickly becomes infatuated with. As his virtual relationship continues, David builds his own version of reality, tuning him completely out of the one he’s always wished to escape and blurring the line between what’s real and what isn’t.
The anamorphic black and white cinematography is absolutely stunning. Always tapped into technology and never far from it, the film’s look creates a sense of falseness that utterly surrounds the characters. Dickinson is extremely cynical in his approach and the film’s focus on its technology, which is popping up on the screen in one way or another is meant to attune us to the fact that this will be our life if we continue down the road we’re on. However, the lead character’s shallowness and pretentious behavior make the film feel far more distant and cold than any of the technology in use. David creates a virtual relationship and his own self-importance and lack of interaction with the real-life version of his virtual girlfriend makes him look delusional at best.
David is an unfulfilled character, but the fact that he’s a bit egotistical, wealthy, and blatantly ignores his real-life girlfriend makes him come off as self-wallowing and obnoxious. The film’s inherent cynicism is a double-edged sword that wishes to convey our possible future, but wallows in its own misery and deflects from the overall message. Technology is already too much a part of our lives, and the way the film presents its satire of society isn’t anything we don’t see on a daily basis. “Creative Control” is arrogant and pretentious, too focused on looking cool and hip and thus making its lead character completely unsympathetic.
"Creative Control" is arrogant and pretentious in its storytelling, too focused on looking cool and hip and thus making its lead character completely unsympathetic.