The Sunchaser Pictures synopsis of Devolution: Reckoning claims that this film is about aliens attempting to take over Earth, but you wouldn’t know it by watching it. Instead, I find the series of photographs combined with the edited, stock audio clips much more interesting and complex than this traditional science-fiction genre description. Following in the footsteps of films such as Koyannisqatsi (1982) and Baraka (1992), Devolution: Reckoning relies on juxtaposition to make arguments without the aid of dialogue or narration. If we are to believe the arguments the written synopsis makes, the film is a failure: despite the interjected photographs of toy aliens and UFOs, I had no idea this film was meant as a narrative. But, if filmmaker Gavin Heffernan allows his viewers a bit more freedom, the juxtaposition of sound and images can be interpreted in any number of ways, and the results are beautiful and occasionally jarring.
This is not a film about the failures of human society. The images Heffernan shows us are often of crowded, dirty cities, but he frames them with sunsets, human faces, and bright, colorful lights. Humanity represents a kind of chaos, but an organized chaos, and this cinematography points out the beauty in the industrial, fast-paced, and dirty places we might otherwise interpret as affronts to the environment.
The audio is important here, but my attention fades in and out as I try to pair the images to the words. There is no direct correlation, but the overall effect is positive. This is not an effective narrative film, but there is an eerie sci-fi quality about it. Whether or not aliens attack, the film points out the fragility of what we have built. Animals go extinct, nature encroaches when and where we least expect it, the world moves on – out of our control.
So, I enjoyed Devolution: Reckoning for the film it is, despite the film it was, apparently, meant to be.
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